Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Old books, new places on bookshelves

I have been meaning to do a monthly "book of the moment" slot picking up on whatever I was reading at the time that seemed relevant

And this month i find myself with two books that cannot be called at all "recent". There is "The Guide to South and East Africa for the use of tourists, sportsmen, invalids and settlers" - 1914 edition - and "Introduction to Zoology Through Nature Study" by Rosalie Lulham, 1923 edition.

The first book is a fascinating tour of a vanished world, usefully sporting pages advertising ginger beer, Broadwood Piano Fortes, Union-CAstle Line ships to south Africa and hotels (Beira, for example offer sthe Savoy at 15s - 20 s, Queen's from 8s 6d and the Metropole for 8s 6d (that's s= shillings (24 to the pound, I think? and d = pennies, 12 to the shilling)

There are wonderful, delicate colonial maps with the great sweep of Rhodesia reaching right up to the Nyasaland protectorate (now Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi) and German East Africa (mostly Tanzania)

Cape Town: I found Kloof Street and other familiar places

Introduction to Zoology is an old favourite, full of careful drawings and detailed life histories for beetles, worms and dragonflies. There is a recipe for "artificial sea water" and a design for "a subterrarium for beetles". I was given this copy when i was about 12 (have just had it rebound) and with that and assorted Gerald Durrell volumes on my bookcase, I never had much of a chance really. Explains the current 9 aquaria (emergency tanks for stray tadpoles and toadlets and a refugee newt), the pile of bone sin the library and the boxes of useful pine cones and pebbles upstairs...

The same adventure that brought me the Guide, added a book on the Tortoises of Southern Africa and reprints of books Old Stone Monuments by J Ferguson (originally published 1872) and The Shire Highlands by Jim Buchanan (Malawi, 1885) and the brand new and magnificent The Wildflowers of Offaly by John Feehan, but they can all wait for another day!


  1. fascinating! i love old books. with some of mine, the price itself is interesting.

    20 shillings to the pound, 21 shillings in a guinea, two shillings in a florin, five shillings in a crown, half a crown is two shillings and sixpence... four farthings in a penny, four pennies in a groat.

  2. Tourists, sportsmen, invalids and settlers - what a list! That map has the familiar shape of the land-locked country of my birth. Feel as if I have been through a different zoological stage with each migration, Toad! Old maps and books are so evocative. Did you ever shade around the edge of countries and/or along the coast with a colouring pencil and then finger-smooth the colour?