collected books most of my life - a habit, some would say an obsession,
inherited from my father, who turned his collecting hobby into a
secondhand book business on his retirement. He traded under the
name of Ansford Books for nearly 20 years from the late 1960s. I
know many birdwatchers bought books from him.
My book collecting
falls under three main headings. Firstly, books about the arctic,
its history and exploration as much as its natural history. Secondly,
reference books, for example the major avifaunas and standard works
on the identification of Britain's flowers, bryophytes, moths and
other beasties I may encounter. Finally, I collect readable natural
history books, e.g. Collins New Naturalist and Poyser, many of which
are also reference works. In addition, I have several subsidiary
areas of interest, including, not surprisingly, wildfowl, and also
mountaineering and political biographies.
Getting up from
my desk to consult a book is a frequent occurrence as I write or
as I edit someone else's writing. I was wondering which books I
consulted most frequently and which, therefore, I might recommend
to others as being among the most useful to own. The following short
list is of four works that I would not want to be without and is
not in order of importance.
of Birds. Edited by Campbell and Lack. Poyser, 1985
Even though it is now 17 years old, this is still among the most
consulted books I own. It's coverage is truly comprehensive and
I rarely fail to find at least some of the information I seek.
the Western Palearctic, 9 volumes. Edited by Cramp and others.
I must, of course, profess an interest, as I was one of the editors
for the first six volumes, but it is an essential possession. Available
on CD-ROM and in two condensed volumes at knock-down prices, there
is little excuse for not owning at least one version.
of the Birds of the World, 7 volumes and counting. Edited
by del Hoyo, Elliott and Sargatal. Lynx Edicions,1992-.
Yes, it is expensive, but you get a huge amount for your money.
The quantity and quality of information, plates and photographs
is unrivalled and time and again I find myself taking one of the
volumes down to consult.
The New Atlas
of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1988-1991. Edited
by Gibbons, Reid and Chapman. Poyser 1993.
Despite the rapidity of change in some species, still a mine of
authoritative information and a must-have - until the next Atlas,
There are probably no surprises in the above, so here are two recent
books, one each from Collins and Poyser, which I have thoroughly
enjoyed reading, but which are also useful as reference books. They
are also both good examples of the quality of books being produced
by these two major natural history publishers.
By John Mitchell. Collins New Naturalist, 2001.
Now, obviously, I know the area well, but even if I didn't, this
book, by a fine naturalist who was warden of the Loch Lomond National
Nature Reserve for 27 years, would make me want to visit the area
and see its natural history and historical riches for myself.
Eagle. By Jeff Watson. Poyser, 1997.
A classic Poyser book, readable, well produced and, in this instance,
beautifully illustrated by Keith Brockie. If Golden Eagles enthrall
you, and that must mean nearly everyone, then this is the book to
buy and to read.
I could go on
and just might some other time.
Ogilvie is a natural history writer and editor, formerly a research
scientist with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and resident
on the island of Islay since 1986. Until 1997, a member of the
'British Birds' editorial board and also one of the editorial
team which produced 'Birds of the Western Palearctic'.