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  • Provenance of this copy: It was in the collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library before being withdrawn on an unspecified date.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.

Cats and scorched Earth

July's illustration from the 2023 calendar featuring the work of popular Dutch artist Franciens Katten (website, Facebook page). I learned of her amazing work via her daughter, who I met through a Postcrossing exchange; we've been pen pals for several years now.
A Robin Jacques illustration from Ruth Manning-Sanders' A Book of Cats and Creatures (1981).

I got up at my standard hour of 5:30 this morning to check on the outdoor feral cats and start the indoor cat chores. Things are a bit less stressful on the weekends, because I'm not also juggling the start of my remote-work day with the Lancaster newspaper.

In these summer months, it's a bit more urgent to get the feral cats fed during the first couple of hours of light, because soon the temperatures will become brutal and they'll be off to the shadiest spot they can find to wait out the most scorching 12 hours of the day. Some of them start returning between 6-7 p.m.

This morning I had Cirque, Creamy, Fjord, Big Boi and Stubby at the door. Stubby is one of Cirque's five kittens, and it's the only one that comes here for food, to my knowledge. I spot the others in the neighbor's tree or atop the wall that divides our properties. I think Cirque (pictured) is still their main source of nutrition, so I try to make sure she gets access to as much extra food as possible. 

But, yeah, the weather is not really conducive to surviving outdoors at the moment, unless you're a saguaro. Phoenix and the southwestern United States have been making national headlines for this heat wave. These are from The Washington Post in recent days:

The current Phoenix forecast is for 117° F both days this weekend, though other forecasts have predicted that 120° F is possible, especially on Sunday. We tend to run a few degrees "cooler" here in Florence. We're looking a mere 114° F this weekend. One of the other worst parts is that the night-time temperature rarely drops below 90° F anymore. In some areas, it remains as high at 95° F. 

Monsoon season has been late in arriving. I don't believe we've had any measurable rain here in Florence since mid-March. There is some fingers-crossed hope that we'll get some rain within the next week. Maybe the temperature will even drop a few degrees. One can hope.

Anyway, we're in an existential climate crisis. So this is just another tiny dispatch from that crisis, written from the privilege of my air-conditioned house. If you're interested in reading more, Jeff Goodell has just published the very timely book The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet.
I'm going to go check on the cats, indoor and outdoor, now. I can't do much to save the planet, but I can dole out some care and compassion in this tiny corner of the baking desert.
Dec. 26, 2023, caption for the above photo: That's Stubby, left, and Big Boi, pictured in July when they were feral cats. We trapped Stubby, son of Cirque, in late August and brought him inside with two of his siblings (Venus, Mercury) so they could be spayed/neutered and socialized for adoption. They are currently listed for adoption but haven't yet found their forever homes. Big Boi, meanwhile, was trapped by a neighbor in October and neutered. He's now been with us for about a week. The neighbor didn't think he was well enough to be put back outside. We're still assessing him as of this writing. He sleeps a lot and is very sweet.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Rowel Friers' endpapers and interior illustration for "The Obstinate Ghost"

I still need to get around to a full essay on the dandy 1960s ghost/folklore books by Geoffrey Palmer and Noel Lloyd. In the meantime, this post features some of the superb artwork by their illustrator, Rowel Friers (1920-1998). Shown above are Friers' endpapers illustration and his illustration for "Billy Bates's Story" from the 1968 collection The Obstinate Ghost and Other Ghostly Tales. Don't we all wish we grew up in a neighborhood with a house like that? Or lived in one now?

Friers was a cartoonist, painter, illustrator, set designer and actor. For a story on his funeral service in 1998, Neil Johnston of the Belfast Telegraph wrote:
"The church was packed with representatives from the arts, music, drama, newspapers and television. ... All of them referred to his humanity, his generosity of spirit, his charm, his talent as an artist, his work for charity, particularly Cystic Fibrosis, and the devastating way in which he used his gift for cartoons to attack pomposity, political cant, and sectarian bigotry wherever he saw it."
It seems that providing illustrations for children's books was just a minor side job for Friers, but we should be very glad it happened and that his contributions to these Palmer/Lloyd books exist.

Other endpapers illustrations

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Little green library in Mesa, Arizona

We don't have many Little Free Libraries in the rural area of Florence/Coolidge where we live. But the sprawling Phoenix/Mesa/Gilbert/Chandler/Tempe metroplex has many such community book exchanges in business districts and residential areas.

We visited this nice one, dubbed a "Little green library," in Mesa last weekend. We didn't have any books to add to it, but it was pretty stuffed, so I think that was OK. I took this worn copy of Mooch the Messy, a 1976 "I Can Read!" children's book by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat (1928-2019) of Nate the Great fame and illustrator Ben Shecter

Mooch the Messy has very positive ratings on Goodreads and Amazon and seems to be fondly remembered. Mooch cleans up his untidy dwelling to make his father happy during a visit. But once father is gone, he reverts to comfortable messiness. "I like to see all my things," said Mooch. In the end, he makes himself a cup of cocoa and relaxes amid his "bunched up" sheets and blankets. Good for Mooch!

Monday, July 10, 2023

Book cover: "Fear in Firland"

I guess we'll just keep going with this summer's UFO theme ...
  • Title: Fear in Firland
  • Author: Norman Power (1916-1993). Full name: Norman Sandiford Power.
  • Illustrator, including cover: Michael Jackson.
  • Publication date: 1974
  • Publisher: Blackie & Son Limited, London and Glasgow, which was in business from 1809 to 1991.
  • Printer: The Anchor Press Ltd.
  • Format: Hardcover with dust jacket
  • Pages: 128
  • Dust jacket price: £1.85 
  • Acknowledgements: "The author thanks members of his family, Mrs. Ruth Cockfield, Mrs. Helen Cooper, the Reverend Jack Courtenay, Mr. John Cutforth, Professor Helen Guthrie, Miss Pat Hudson, Mrs. Ann Potts and Mr. Arthur Rowlett. Each of these has helped bring the Firland stories into being by having faith, giving encouragement, criticism, and suggestions, or practical assistance with the manuscript."
  • Dedication: "For Angela"
  • Dust jacket description: "The Firlanders, whose story is first told in The Forgotten Kingdom have regained their native land from Queen Ivis and her evil, half-human army of Yelgs and Ergs. Young King Richard and his friends are working hard to create the free, happy land of their dreams. Their peace is shattered when a race of insect-like creatures arrive in space ships. It soon becomes clear that they will eat every living plant and animal in Firland. Fear in Firland tells the exciting story of how the time-travelling wizard Greylin goes forward into the present from the fifth century to find help. After a number of false starts he returns with three teenage cousins and a secret weapon to defeat the invaders. Children of all ages, especially science fiction and fantasy devotees, will enjoy this enthralling journey into the past."
  • Series: So, as we read above, this is not the first book in the series. The first book was called both The Firland Saga (paperback) and The Forgotten Kingdom (hardcover). Fear in Firland was the second book. And the final book, Firland i Flammer (Firland in Flames), was only published in Danish. Apparently, the Danes loved this series the most. Here are the three Danish covers. As you can see, there's a lot going on.
  • First sentence: Hideous and menacing, the dinosaur shadow reared up on the wall above the fireplace.
  • Last paragraph [SPOILER alert]: "As a matter of fact," said Edward, "it was D.D.T. They were only insects after all!"
  • Yikes: Indeed, Firland defeated the insects from outer space, but little did it know of the looming environmental impact of the victory on its fair land. There was plenty of public evidence of the dangers of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane by the time this book was published. Silent Spring came out in 1962! Perhaps Power should have used a different deus ex machina.
  • Excerpt from the middle #1: But Richard knew he must be ever on guard. At the very first sign of danger from Yelgs he would attack them. It was no good building walls or hoping they'd go away.
  • Excerpt from the middle #2: "When troubles came, I expect they all tried to stand on their own feet or help each other. I always longed for the welfare state, but I wish we could have done things differently. It is all so impersonal. We pay our taxes and don't follow through with any personal concern the money that goes to pay to help a family in trouble. And many people have lost all sense of responsibility for their homes, families and even themselves. They think 'they' should provide everything free."
  • Online reviews: None to be found, really.
  • More about Power: However, there's an excellent 2016 article about Power on Douglas A. Anderson's blog Lesser-Known Writers. Anderson describes Power's upbringing as the son of a clergyman, his early nonfiction writing (including a book about hypnosis) and the eventually creation of the Firland books as an extension of telling bedtime stories to his children. Anderson's full article and ongoing blog are well working checking out if you're interested in obscure authors and their books.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

From the readers: A tailor, a bishop and Ruth Manning-Sanders

It's time to turn another post over to the readers...

J.C. Savage of Belfast, tailor and breeches maker: Sian writes: "Just wanted to say thank you for this. The tailor in 1920 would have been my great-great-grandfather, so it was great to see this piece of history and I have forwarded it to my daughter. My father (93) has some tales about him and still has his tailor's scissors. Bristol City Corporation complained about the electric lights in his shop, as they were frightening the horses. His was the first shop to have had the lights installed. One of the family was an inventor and devised a system for recording sound and was visited by [Thomas] Edison. Mr. Savage devised a way to make waxed cloth and used it during World War I to make clothing for officers. The J.C. stood for James Carl, and I remember being told when I was young the there were 5 generations of James Carls!"

Thank you for sharing all those great memories and details, Sian! 

Hans Holzer & hot pink: "The Psychic World of Bishop Pike": Brian Busby of The Dusty Bookcase writes: "I've been on a bit of a tear through obscure 1970s stuff myself, Chris. My current read is The Man From Krypton: The Gospel According to Superman (1978) by evangelist John Wesley White. Billy Graham provides the foreword. I've read and reviewed three other books by the Rev. Dr. White. The Man From Krypton disappoints only in that it has the fewest factual errors. Though an Anglican, I knew nothing of Bishop Pike until I read John Wesley White's Re-entry (1970), which deals with 'striking parallels between today's news events and CHRIST'S SECOND COMING.' White goes after Bishop Pike, not one year in the grave, on the very first page. I don't think that's right, but will not cast the first stone. If interested, here's my review: The Oxford PhD Rambles On."

A dark and stormy night ... and a good book: Peggy writes: "Beautiful! Each [advertising card] is a window into the past (and sometimes a reminder of how important our consumer protections are!)"

Guest post: Finally finding a "white whale" book from childhood: I got a couple of comments regarding the happy reunion involving Ruth Manning-Sanders' Mystery at Penmarth.  

Anonymous writes: "Great post! I found a copy through inter-library loan — halfway through it and really enjoying this book."

Anonymous writes: "This is amazing!!! I can't believe you found the book and were able to read and enjoy it. A big thanks to all those out there who work to connect readers with books they loved and lost."

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris: This post keeps generating comments. A lot of them are short. Some are rude and/or speculative. I won't put all the new ones here, but you can check out the post if you want to get involved in the continuing conversation. I do thank Gabriel Lampert for writing, "Thanks for giving this woman a proper eulogy."   

Some of the books that helped to inspire Ruth Manning-Sanders: 23skudu writes: "Hopefully someone managed to buy them all or make a detailed bibliography of the books that were there. Some of these stories need a bit freshening to be retold for this new generation of readers."

The books definitely went to many different buyers across the globe. This is on my list of things to write more about!

Elaborately designed envelope for Bennett Printing Company: Anonymous writes: "My father, Harvey McHenry, worked there for years."

Wampole's Creo-Terpin ink blotter from Ensley, Alabama: Teresa writes: "I am curious if you know anything on his 'worm syrup' I would gladly trade some photos for information."

No, I don't know anything about "worm syrup," but maybe someone else out there does!

Prudential booklet on signers of the Declaration of Independence: Anonymous writes: "I have been going through my parents old papers and found a copy of this booklet! Very interesting! It would be timely for it to be reissued today for the benefit of today’s generation."

Absolutely. I'm a big proponent of quality civic education (and teaching the true and full history of the United States).