My natural history library sprawls across several rooms, my families acceptance of it much appreciated. I have, in the past, had mini-culls, normally of books that had served their purpose and become redundant, superceded by more up-to-date publications, although some of these 'retired' tomes will forever be held onto - there is too much history between us.

One section of this collection is dedicated to that of 'nature writing', populated by the likes of Macfarlane, Mabey, Dee, Cocker, Deakin, Oates, Dunn, Goulson and Marren. These are books not to be used as reference but to be read for pleasure and nourishment, not that you do not learn an awful lot from them as well.

The most fluid part of the library is that of subscription journals and bird reports. It has had to, over the years, suffer major culling due to shortage of space. - and, if I'm being honest, because they largely go on the shelf after their initial read never to be taken down again. My Surrey, Kent and Sussex bird reports have all left the building, along with my British Birds and Birding Worlds. Same is true of British Wildlife, BSBI and Wild Flower Society magazines. What I will always hold onto is my complete collection of Dungeness Bird Observatory annual reports (1957 - 1968; 1989 - present). I re-read these regularly. I have a complete set of London Bird Reports from 1974 which do get looked at, but what does take up room on the shelves is every issue of Atropos (first published in 1995). I cannot say that I refer to them at all, although I look forward to its arrival throughout the year. I might, in the future, be tempted to pass them onto a young entomologist.

Books have a character. They can remind you of the times in which you obtained them. Some become best friends. Some actually define you, even though you neither wrote or published them. Many talk to you - and you alone, telling you things that are exciting, or confirming what you always thought. They inspire. They are objects of desire.

That well known bibliophile, Marcus Tullius Cicero, once said:

"A room without books is like a body without a soul"

Cannot argue with that.


Paul James said…
I too need to prune down my collection of journals. Was wondering where yours went to after leaving the building?
Steve Gale said…
Hi Paul. My Birding Worlds went to a birder who couldn’t afford to subscribe. I passed on others to interested naturalists. Others became recycled material. A few hard backed books went to charity shops. Strangely cathartic.

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