Found Book

Once or twice, like any person who buys and occasionally sells books, I have  found a book on my shelves that I did not know I had.

But only once have I found a really valuable one that I had no recollection of buying, and still don’t. It happened about two “book culls” past, when I literally had books stacked two deep on some shelves. In the densely- packed Asia section, I saw the spine of this book:

It is Charles Vaurie’s Birds of the Himalayas. Now this is not an unnatural book for us to have: I have some other good regional ornithologies, and the Himalayas were Libby’s stomping grounds in her youthful Guiding days. She even had that slender pb bird guide published in Nepal in the seventies that many trekkers had back then– I think I threw it out in a fit of critical thinking, because the illos were so dreadful, every damn species  sort of blue and black and  crested and about the same size. Now I’d be likely to keep it, just for that reason.

But Vaurie was something else. First, it was a beautiful book, with plates of various Himalayan pheasants and such, including my favorite non- raptorial bird, the Satyr tragopan, But the book is better  than that. Although it was published in 1972 it has the  air and feel of something like Beebe’s Pheasants,Their Lives and Homes, published in 1926 in two volumes, or one of Meinerzhagen’s expensive productions. But it is not an arty or coffee table book , like some “collectors'” editions published today; it is a sort of Golden Age standard ornithology.

My interest grew as I looked through it. A page illustrating the mythical Garuda bird was marked by a hand- painted card of the creature, a much better illo…

And then I see the bookplate, of the former owner, and the letter, and I am even more amazed, for I know who both of them are. Despite their aristocratic European names, they, like Will Beebe and Roy Chapman Andrews, worked for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the institution that has done more to shape my view of the world than any other, from when I was reading Beebe and Andrews at the Ames Free Library in Easton or at Jeanne d’Arc Academy in Milton (which happened also to be the childhood mansion of another old influence and in that case a friend as well, Frances Hamerstrom, who was Aldo Leopld’s only female student and who started her relationship with me by damning me for writing Rage for Falcons , fearing my “tough Sportswriter’s style”- HER words, in the Auk no less, would end up with falcons being commercially exploited, and ended up drinking brandy with me and the cowboys in the Golden Spur, in a near- ghost town where, in 1914, her mentor gave a talk on conservation to a crowd bigger than the entire population of the town today.

That thread will wind through collecting specimens and the Peregrine Fund and widowhood the Congo pygmies and even the David Letterman show, but it is a western one mostly and not the one here, which leads to Asia and Father Anderson Bakewell and the Explorers Club; to Libby and three trips to Mongolia and Kazakhstan and three books so far; and who knows what else to come?

None of this would have happened without the AMNH, and Libby knows this so I assumed she, the seasoned Himlayan guide,  had bought it for me.

But she had never seen it either…

C J’s latest project

C J Hadley came over as a young girl from Birmingham in England, and worked at Car and Driver magazine in its legendary years, when the late David E Davis ran a strong stable of writers and illustrators. It may be advancing age, but I think magazines were more colorful then, perhaps because they were a more important part of the market. These were also the days of the Pat Ryan Sports Illustrated, training ground for many of the writers that helped form me, howing me how broad a subject a sporting essay could be.

CJ met Tom Quinn there, when Tom did this legendary cover:

Both went on to other things, Quinn to become a wildlife painter, perhaps our best; CJ, however improbably, ended up in Nevada runing the outspoken rancher’s voice, Range magazine, where the English girl has been nominated for Cowgirl Hall of Fame by Jameson Parker, Joan Chevalier, and John L Moore, two of whom make frequent appearances here.

I have one original Quinn, a watercolor sketch of  a roadkill Bee eater that I snatched out of the fire kindling in his studio (really), any amount of prints, and have been privileged to write the text to a collection of his work, The Art of Thomas Quinn.

Tom’s firestarter:

Quinn and me, with his wife Jeri’s oil of a horse in the background (plus wolves by his old friend Vadim Gorbatov, painted by Vadim before he visited NM for a Korean edition of Seton’s Lobo, the story of a cattle- killing New Mexico wolf, with our aid for background material.

CJ, as Tom says, is not always controversial. She has just released what I believe is her second, broadest in scope, most ambitious  and best collection of western art and poetry (in this and other images forgive some rather odd croppings; I photo’d it on my coffee table!)

You say you don’t like cowboy poetry and art? Well, there are plenty of those represented: Buckeye Blake, Waddie Mitchell, Wallace McRae, as well as traditional western writers like Will James. But so is the far less traditional cowboy Paul Zarzyski (he is a Democrat!); Ted Kooser; Linda Hasselstrom, and many many more. In artists Tom is well represented, but also the old master Maynard Dixon,  Charlie Russell, and any number of writers and artists who may be new to you. Here is a broad if non- random selection:. A always, right or double click and you can blow it up big enough to read easily.

Good job, CJ! It is $43, available at 1 800 RANGE-4-U.

Here is CJ with Montana novelist and friend of Q John L Moore.

UPDATE : here is a pic she just sent of her  with her dogs Belle Star, Strider, and Cache Drogan.

Beebesaurus

I finally got my copy, Beebe’s copy, of his book Our Search  for a Wilderness, with his bookplate. The seller thought it was an iguana, but I knew it was a sketch of a possible “pre-Archaeopteryx” avian ancestor he had imagined. In 1910.

I think it was 2003 when they dug up Microraptor gui. The model is light- colored, but it has been discovered to be irridescent black. Mira!

I am painting my model black, and displaying it with the book…

Beebe

Will Beebe, naturalist, writer, inventor, New York socialite, jungle and ocean explorer, is a man whose like it would be hard to have today. But without his example, I don’t know if I would be the person I am. Tom McGuane also cites him as a childhood inspiration, not for writing (I think he slights him a bit here), but for adventure. He wrote his first book in 1905, a rather 19th century affair called Two Bird Lovers in Mexico, and wrote his last stuff for the Geographic in the early sixties. He was a friend to Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote the intro to (I believe) his second book, early, and to Father Anderson Bakewell much later, invented the Bathysphere and exploration of the abyss, shot flying fish with a 28 bore Parker, and married beautiful women…

I have intended to write on Beebe for a while, as I have a nice little collection of “Beeebeana”, but I was prompted by my correspondent, Kirk, one of the serious polymaths himself– geneticist, MD, gourmand, elk hunter, scholar of Icelandic history, sea trout fiend, student of esoteric lore (he is the only acquaintance of mine who has attended the Naropa Institute Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, where he among other things read Conrad with William Burroughs!) Kirk, in a discussion of Kipling, asked me if I knew of the “Kiplingite” Beebe (who actually met Kipling when he was living in Vermont). When I replied that I did, and shared my modest collection, Kirk responded with the following:

“Since the first page I “self-identified” as a scientist.
A tiny sphere dangling deep in the dark with
a shaft of light on bizarre never-before-seen creatures.
My wife gave me Gould’s biography (out of print) this summer after hearing
her interviewed on NPR, and probably tiring of me
rave about William Beebe for 40 years (almost
from the day we met) i.e., why I do what I do.
What a combination – absolute scientific rigor,
wild bravery, aplomb everywhere (back of beyond to Vanity Fair),
work hard, party hard, a true advocate for women in
science (one of the first), smashing technical and popular writer,
bon vivant with no care for possessions or
wealth other than that needed for more science, genial
mentor to so many of the best of the best.”

Sing it, Kirk! Here are some things…

His first book:

A favorite, Pheasant Jungles — a signed copy. It was a VERY different time– read the caption (double click to enlarge)…

Books then were decorative- here are the endpapers of  Jungle Days  and The Arcturus Adventure. Both were published by Putnam, nature and adventure being mainstream in those days…

One of his most wonderful books is Pheasants, Their Lives and Homes – two volumes covering every species, in its natural home! Beebe, just after WWl and working for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, was given the kind of assignment that usually doesn’t exist even in fiction– to travel to Asia and collect and observe every species, paid for by the wealthy patron Colonel Kuser. The resulting volumes also used the great nature artists of the time– Knight, George Lodge, Fuertes. There is nothing else like them.

 


 This is only the beginning, early, land based. His dives in the Bathysphere, his ocean stuff comes later. His bio, by Carol Grant Gould, and the bathysphere book, Descent, by Brad Matsen, are absolutely  worth reading. His social life was amusing too- he knew father B,  who collected snakes for the Museum, and who used to keep a copy of the Social Register beside his Alpine Journal and his cocked and locked Colt Commander (“What good is an unloaded gun?” he would always say), in front of a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe in his Santa Fe casita. I have joked that the American Museum , the Social Register, and the Explorers Club used to draw on the same crowd in the Thirties, and it is more true than not. To be continued…

Ahh, one more, from Beebe’s own Bathysphere book, Half Mile Down

“Better than Bacon”

This painting, in which Carl Rungius does his own version of a Charley Russell theme, is in the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole. Most of Rungius’s late great oils  have a distinctive theme or style, which I characterized rudely to two of my friends, art historian Jim Moore and museum curator Toby Jurjevics, as “a cubist mountain with a big white mammal on it, or a big dark cubist mammal, a bear or a moose.” True and I think funny (they did laugh), but leaves out the fact that he was one of the greatest “animaliers” ever, and maybe my favorite big game painter.

A show is coming next year of American hunting and fishing paintings, from the Revolution to WW II. I will do the intro, one reason we were all sitting in my yard last week talking about painters. I want to add this Rungius because it is atypical, as well as very nice.

By the way, I have a letter by Rungius that fell out of an old Knopf Borzoi book on Alaskan hunting by Russell Annabel that I found in a bookstore.

Image again

Here is the full image of the painting that contains the detail I blogged on below. I await the book, but as far as I know it is in Chinese, so it may still be enigmatic. It is both beautiful and sinister, and its title is “Clearing the Mountains”. Who is clearing whom out of what mountains?