Friday, November 29, 2019

Book cover: "A Forest by Night"

  • Title: A Forest by Night
  • Author: Fred J. Speakman (?-1982)
  • Cover and interior illustrator: John Augustus Avis (1931-2015)
  • Publisher: G. Bell and Sons Ltd., London
  • Publication date: 1965
  • Dust jacket price: 18 shillings, sixpence (or 1½ shillings under a pound, if I have my British money math right)
  • Pages: 196
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket blurb: "Fred Speakman comes of country stock with a family history on his father's side of 900 years of farming. His father who knew and loved the country life, remained a countryman to the end. It is natural that when tragedy emptied his life, the author should turn to the countryside, the Epping Forest he had known since boyhood. Long interested in the problems of its wild life, he determined to do what probably nobody else would have the chance to do and spend his nights in the Forest for the round of a whole year, to watch animals — and to find a new basis for living. This book tells the story of the nights he spent, winter and summer, spring and autumn, alone under the trees. It is unique. The author writes of a world that few know. ... Today the author runs a Field Centre for Children at his home in the Forest. Well-known as a naturalist, lecturer, broadcaster and author, he gives to others the happiness he finds in himself."
  • Dedication: "In memory of my father who led my first childhood steps among the green trees, to my wife and children who bring me the happiness I know, and to all who love the quiet places."
  • Excerpt from foreword and acknowledgements: "This book is true. ... I turned to the Forest, in bitterness and with aching heart and a longing for confirmation of faith. I returned rich, healed, as the axe cut in the tree is healed."
  • First sentence: "The first day of the New Year, and what a stinging white-cold start it is to my year of freedom."
  • Last paragraph: "This book is history. Its lesson is bitter. Under complacent ignorance the larger wild creatures of the Forest are doomed. 'Laissez-faire' is not enough. It is not true that nothing can be done. The Forest cries for a new champion."
  • Random sentence from the middle: "In the hole appears a short rounded face of black and white, a badger cub venturing out alone."
  • Review of the book: "Campfire Kev" wrote this in 2009 on Path of the Paddle: "I read a fantastic book as a boy call 'A Forest By Night' by Fred J. Speakman and ever since have had a special affection for badgers. In the book which I thoroughly recommend, although it’s near impossible to get hold of now, the author, recently bereaved and injured during the second world war and unable to work spends a year in Epping Forest staying out at night and recording everything he sees, through each season — most of the activity focusses around the lives if the badgers he watches. It’s an inspiring read and one of the first books on what we would now know as ‘woodlore’ or bushcraft." There's some additional info about Speakman in this 2010 Path of the Paddle post.
  • Other books by Speakman: Tracks, Trails, and Signs; The Young Naturalist's Year; A Poacher's Tale; A Keeper's Tale; Out of the Wild; and Torty of Woodend.

But wait, there's more

Here's the map that appears on the last page of the book.
Click and magnify for more detail.

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