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Old Books/Old Passions

The books you have on your shelves reveal your interests, or sometimes, what you want others to think of you. A poseur.

Old books show your long-standing passions. Not something you’d keep for show. More of a reminder of an age, a chapter of your life.

Recently I did a blog called Zane Grey Country in which I had a picture of a shelf in our study with nearly 40 Zane Grey novels, most of them over 60 years old.

My son-in-law Lance Greyling read that blog and was in a second-hand book shop in Pringle Bay and found a gem. He gave it to me last Christmas. A Zane Grey book printed 101 years ago.

Here it is:

I find it fascinating to think of where that book has been. We can see the name of the first purchaser who lived in Sea Point and wrote his name and presumably a family coat of arms and the date, 1926.

The subject egged me on to look more closely at my bookshelves. Look at this shelf:

The interest is clear, and has been for a long time. Four of the books pictured are more than 60 years old.

(The piranha is only about 20 years old, given to me as a prize when I won a fishing contest organised by a hotel on the west bank of the Rio Negro, about twenty kilometres from the confluence with the Amazon River in the jungle city of Manaus.)

The four books are the one with a red-brown material cover, the two cloth covered books and the small dark green book titled Wildlife of Southern Africa.

The most important of those four, is, by far, my first Roberts’ Birds of South Africa. Here are some of the inside pages:

The page with the printing history shows the success of this most iconic of the bird books of Southern Africa. Note that it was first printed in 1940 and then nine more times until my copy, printed in 1957. Note too that these are not reprints but impressions. The book was changing: new finds, new ways to portray the information, and a foreword by arguably the best statesman in South Africa’s history.

Next in the interest line for me is the book covered by the red-brown material.

Leslie Brown was a pioneer in the field of large raptors. Of interest is a personal story. The book was loaned to me by a friend and he borrowed one of mine. Neither of us returned the book borrowed. I think I got the better deal.  Eagles was published in 1955.

An anecdote: in my mid-teens I became a volunteer to the ornithology department of the Bulawayo Museum. I lived on a large property about 6 miles west of Bulawayo. My task was to assist them in the collection of what are called ‘skins’, the preserved plumage of a bird which allowed them to study regional differences. For this task I had to know the basics of taxidermy (the finished article was for scientific study not to be on display) and I had to have patience. They would identify a bird they wanted collected west of Bulawayo, and supply me some rounds of .22 dust for my ancient single shot rifle of that calibre. The patience was needed because the carry of the tiny pellets in the .22 dust ammunition required me to be very close to the bird.

The next book of interest is Animals of Rhodesia, a charming little book with illustrations, first published in 1959.

And finally a similar reference book, this time with black and white photographs. The book does not have a date of publication but I know I received it in 1959 as a 15th birthday gift from my sister. There lies the charm.

Published inBlog/Gallery

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