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Bird Book was Re: Well-known book on Naval Warfare


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Posted by Adam Quinan on January 21, 2018 at 13:02:52 user Adam.

In Reply to: Re: Well-known book on Naval Warfare posted by Jon on January 19, 2018 at 08:36:52:

I believe that the bird book which Dick used in GN? was pretty convincingly identified by me as "A Bird Book for the Pocket" by Edmund Sandars, 1st edition 1927, Oxford University Press.

I wrote an article for the 2005 Mixed Moss entitled "Is the Dick's Bird Book?"

Here is an excerpt from the article which gives my reasons for believing that this is the book.

The reasons why I am so positive that this small book was the one Dick consulted are the quotes from the book that Ransome gives in the text and also the illustrations in Great Northern? To start with, Ransome states that the Great Northern and Black Throated Divers were shown on the same page. This is what Sandars shows. In addition, there is the Latin name, colymbus immer immer, the species name was changed in 1931 to gavia immer immer, (note: I have read that urinator immer immer was also used for some time between colymbus and gavia but I am not sure for how long).

Sandars idiosyncratically abbreviated the Latin name to colymbus immer2 with a superscript 2 and continued to use colymbus immer2 in later editions. In Chapter VII “Is it or isn’t it” of GN? Ransome refers to colymbus immer which might be easily done if he did not notice or realise what the superscript 2 meant. He also uses direct quotes from the descriptions of the Great Northern and Black Throated Diver in Dick's book. These are exactly the same words as Sandars' text.

Nests abroad. Usually seen solitary. Black Throated Diver Colymbus arcticus. Length 28 inches. Great Northern Diver Colymbus immer. Length 31 inches.
Sandars’ description of the Great Northern Diver is also notable as being very short and lacking in the details given for other birds. This would have added to Dick’s frustration giving him too little information to conclusively identify the Great Northern Divers.
Finally, the picture of the Great Northern Diver in Sandars' book is one of those where he has chosen to put an enlarged picture of the head and neck of the GN to make the differences in appearance from the Black-Throated diver clear, just as Dick does in his notebook. The picture of the whole body of the GN in Sandars book is quite small and tucked into a space on the page. What is also striking is how similar Ransome's illustrations of Dick's notebook are to the images from Sandars' book. They face the same way, in the same pose and are almost identical in detail and relative size.

I am certainly satisfied that Dick’s bird book was Sandars’ A Bird Book for the Pocket. The pictures and the text hang together. It is a suitably sized small handbook to carry aboard a on a cruising yacht. It was published at the right time and was a popular field guide, maybe the book belonged to Mac and the Sea Bear rather than Dick, though it seems unlike Dick to go on an expedition without some reference book.



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