Saturday, July 15, 2023

Book cover & more: "Willy Ley's Exotic Zoology"

  • Title: According to the dust jacket, it's Willy Ley's Exotic Zoology. According to the title page, Wikipedia and elsewhere, it's just Exotic Zoology. There are about 5,000 Google hits specifically for Willy Ley's Exotic Zoology.
  • Author: Quite clearly it's Willy Ley (1906-1969). His full name was Willy Otto Oskar Ley (no relation, to my knowledge). He was a unique mixture of science writer and cryptozoologist. He was born in Germany but fled that country in 1935, shortly after the rise to power of the German Reich. He later became a United States citizen. His other passion was rocketry, and there is a crater on the moon named in his honor. Ley was mentioned in passing in the Papergreat posts "1969 Ramada Inn newspaper ad to honor Apollo 11 moon landing" (as Willie Ley) and "Bad military idea from the past: Magnetic Plane Destroyer."
  • Illustrator: Olga Ley (1910-2001), who was married to Willy. One of her illustrations is shown below.
  • Jacket design: "The Shekerjians." That likely refers to Regina Shekerjian (1923-2000) and Haig Shekerjian (1922-2002), who did a lot of work as illustrators in the 1960s. I've linked to the in-depth biographies of both on the Lake Chapala Artists website.
  • Publication date: Originally 1959. This is the third printing from January 1962.
  • Publisher: The Viking Press
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 466
  • Dust jacket price: Not sure, because it's been clipped.
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "The extremely diverse inhabitants of Willy Ley's extraordinary zoo have one thing in common; about each of them there is, or has been, a mystery. Some of the mysteries have been solved. ... Then there are mysteries still unsolved but hopeful of solution — [including] the 'abominable snowman' of the Himalayas."
  • Contents: According to the copyright page: "Portions of the text are derived from the author's earlier books: The Lungfish, the Dodo, and the Unicorn; Dragons in Amber; Salamanders and Other Wonders." Some of the chapter titles are "The Legend of the Unicorn," "The Sirrush of the Ishtar Gate," "The Curious Case of the Kraken" and "The Island of the Man-Eating Tree." (Sirrush is now written as Mušḫuššu.)
  • Provenance of this copy: It was in the collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library before being withdrawn on an unspecified date.
  • First sentence (not counting foreword or introduction): Of all the mythical animals that have ever inhabited the pages of old books or decorated the walls of castles, the most charming and impressive — I am tempted to write, the most mythical — is indubitably the unicorn."
  • Last sentence: And the Congo peacock raised again the old but still open question: what else may be in hiding in the Rainy Forest ...?
  • Random excerpt from the middle #1: Critics have said that the last sentence of this entry proves that Egede's sea serpent was the offspring of Olaus's midnight monster, but the whole tenor of the entry belies this interpretation.
  • Random excerpt from the middle #2:
    Actually, everybody seems to be right, depending on where you look. A number of moa-hunter campsites are indubitably Maori. Some are others are almost certainly not Maori of any cultural level; there seem to have been earlier castaways who settled on New Zealand but were not organized immigrants like the Maori of The Fleet. It is a deplorable fact that the moa hunters failed to draw pictures which would help us to visualize their victims.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4.26 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review: In 2012, Danya wrote: "This is my favourite book ... EVER!!! WARNING: do not lend this book ... it may not come back to you."
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.1 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2012, Charles Hall wrote: "From reading this book you get the impression that as a child Willy Ley wandered the biggest library in town looking up odd animals ... and kept doing that for 30 years! This book covers lots of interesting animals that were at one time very mysterious, or still are. Willy has tracked down the earliest references to basilisks, dragons, plants that spawn mammals, etc. and tried to divine the truth. Modern science has solved many of these old mysteries (where do eels come from?), but others elude us still (kraken). What sets this apart from other 'I saw Big Foot' type books is that Willy really knows his stuff and has no axe to grind."
LP also seems to be a type of exotic zoology.

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