Hunting Monsters

You might be wondering why the Smithsonian Libraries would choose a book based on beasts from fantasy, but behind every myth is some truth. The family of “cryptids” includes such familiar creatures as Bigfoot, Yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster, plus several other questionable beasts of land and sea. This book, illustrated with black-and-white photos and drawings, attempts to apply the scientific method to reports of these mythological creatures. The goal is to separate fact from fiction, i.e., what is pure imagination from what is actually possible.

The British Post Office From Its Beginnings to the End of 1925

The author of this masterpiece, British lawyer Chapman Frederick Dendy Marshall (1872 – 1945) was a railway historian. He was also a philatelist. At age 56, he was awarded the coveted Crawford Medal by the Royal Philatelic Society of London for this exact publication. The Crawford Medal is awarded by the Society for the most valuable contribution to philately published in book form. The medal is named after the 26th Earl of Crawford, a philatelic bibliophile. Mr. Marshall was a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Institution of Locomotive Engineers.

Black and British

'To me black history is everyone’s history. It's the long, often tragic and always surprising story of Britain’s relationship with Africa and her peoples, both here in Britain but also in Africa and across the Caribbean and North America, and most of it is little known. It’s a major part of the story of us all.' David Olusoga

Indian Insect Life

With classic British understatement, Harold Maxwell-Lefroy (1877-1925) describes this two-volume, 800 page guide as an “imperfect” attempt to describe the insects of the Indian subcontinent. Published in 1909, Indian Insect Life is “largely a product of [Maxwell-Lefroy’s] spare time and scanty holidays.” One wonders what he would produce if he were able to devote his full time and energy.

Nzima Land

Nzima Land was a small, independent state located in the southwest corner of the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Annor Adjaye, a Nzima Paramount Chief, was educated in Britain and understood how the British viewed Ghanaian society. In this book, he attempts to educate British readers about his society and people, and to dispel prejudices and misconceptions. To bridge this cultural divide, Adjaye explains the workings of Nzima government and tribunal judgments, and he shares the wisdom of Fante proverbs.

Great Benin

The British Punitive Expedition against the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 spawned an outpouring of curiosity about this African kingdom, its stunning bronze sculpture (confiscated booty), and its tyrannical king. H. Long Roth’s Great Benin is one of the classic pieces of literature written about Benin. It is not a product of direct observation—the author never traveled in West Africa—but rather of careful research on eyewitness accounts and museum collections.

Seven Exhibitions

The Tate’s Seven Exhibitions (February 24–March 23, 1972) was a seminal event which marked the arrival of conceptual art in Britain. The seven overlapping exhibitions were organized by Michael Compton, and included works by Keith Arnatt, Michael Craig-Martin, Hamish Fulton, Bob Law, Bruce McLean, David Tremlett, and Joseph Beuys. The exhibition included photographs, films, tape recordings, and a public lecture by Beuys on direct democracy, which also marked the first time the Tate displayed mixed media.

Oriental Field Sports, Vol. 1

This rare first edition, published in two volumes, is a fascinating series of anecdotes of wildlife and hunting in India told by Captain Thomas Williamson. Williamson served in a British regiment in Bengal and was an avid sportsman while there. Edward Orme (1775-1848), a British engraver, painter, and publisher of illustrated books, spear-headed the publication and commissioned the painter Samuel Howitt (1756-1822) to develop 40 illustrations for the work.

Graphical Representation of the Coronation Regalia of the Kings of England

This is a rare book for children with hand-colored copperplate engravings and a floriated border cover. It features detailed full regalia and a summary text about the British coronation ceremony. The text includes the title and position of each central figure during the coronation with a special emphasis on the (at the time) new Imperial Crown, scepter, and coronation anointing materials. Few pamphlets were produced about British heraldry and fashion; this book’s importance lies in its simplicity and focus meant for children.

The Postal History of Gold Coast

This 500-page book is a collection of round postal markings (postmarks) stamped on envelopes, from the Gold Coast region of Africa (modern-day Ghana). The author places these items of philatelic history in the context of the overall history of the region, from the first visit by Portuguese explorers in 1471, through the Republic of Ghana's achievement of independence from British colonial rule in 1957.

Lectures on Painting

Lectures on Painting contains three lectures given by James Barry (1741-1806), John Opie (1761-1807), and Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), with an introduction by Ralph Nicholson Wornum (1812-1877). The three lecturers were all members of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and they were, as well as Wornum, prominent artists of their time. In addition to being an artist, Wornum was also an art historian, administrator, Keeper of the National Gallery in London, and Secretary for the National Gallery's Trustees.

Report on the Collections of Natural History

The Southern Cross Expedition (otherwise known as the British Antarctic Expedition) holds a special place in history: it was the first British venture of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, the first to ever winter on the Antarctic mainland, the first to visit the Great Ice Barrier in over 50 years, and a pioneer of Antarctic survival and travel techniques. Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole, even stated that the expedition’s work helped him and other explorers.

Liberating Sojourn

The book discusses the transatlantic partnership of the abolitionist movement by describing how Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) got an early start in the abolitionist movement overseas. His 1845 trip to what is known today as the United Kingdom changed his life forever. This book is a set of essays written by ten different scholars, professors of American and African American studies, from both the United States and the United Kingdom. 

The Assassination of Shaka

The historical Shaka (circa 1787-1828), the greatest of the Zulu kings, was a brave and skillful warrior who became king in 1817.  Through clever diplomacy, unusual military techniques, and strategic assassination, he controlled an empire of some 200,000 square miles. However, increasing military failure and, ultimately, his mother’s death left him a broken man. To mourn his mother, he imposed a nationwide grieving process so bizarre and destructive that his land was devastated and his people deeply traumatized.  In 1828, two of his half-brothers assassinated him.

The Illustrated Book of Canaries and Cage-Birds

This is a comprehensive work on numerous types of birds, many not normally considered pets or cage-birds. Some also consider it a classic work on canaries. Each author contributed chapters in one of three sections: Blakston wrote about canaries; Swaysland, in his role as an “authority” on the subject, contributed the section on British cage-birds; and Wiener wrote the section on foreign birds. Blakston’s chapters on canaries include more detailed information on breeding, hatching and rearing, exhibiting, and diseases than the other two authors’ sections.

Josiah Wedgwood and His Pottery

This volume includes biographical information on Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) as well as a history of the Wedgwood Pottery and its wares. Wedgwood started producing pottery in about 1759 and is credited with the industrialization of pottery manufacturing. His unique glazes, including the classic jasper, distinguished his pottery from others of the period. Wedgwood pottery became popular not only in England but throughout Europe and America. The author of this volume worked as a chemist at Wedgwood for five years and his passion for the company and its pottery comes through in his writing.

English Table Glass

Percy Bate was born in Manchester in 1868.  In addition to English Table Glass, he authored several books on portraiture and other forms of art.  He was Secretary of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts and later Director of Aberdeen Municipal Art Gallery and Museum.  In English Table Glass, he uses photographs and descriptions to highlight many examples from spirit glasses to candlesticks.  Bate covers table glass from the 16th through the 18th century, but some of his advice—such as how to identify fakes—applies to researchers and collectors tod