One of the greatest gifts to mankind is literature. For thousands of years wealth was gauged in whether an individual could read. These “scholars” documented the history of the world and ruled the ancient civilizations. Authors such as Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are still studied in our institutions of high education. The framers that formed the new Republic that we call the United States, were avid readers of authors like John Locke and John Steward Mills, which greatly influenced the writing of the contract to Americans—the Constitution. In the following decades through the late 1700s, 1800s, and early 1900s, the ability to read separated the upper and middle classes from the lower class, especially in economic terms.
In Europe and America in the 1800s and early 1900s, reading was considered part of daily life. It was not uncommon for individuals to have private libraries in their homes. Books were so treasured that the owners would have stamps or labels placed on the inside cover stating, “The Library of (owner of the book). I enjoy obtaining and reading first editions of books written by early explorers and early hunters in Africa or North America. Many of the books I have collected have these labels inside the front cover. Sometimes I even perform a web search of the names of previous owners to understand the types of individuals that valued this type of literature.
Besides library labels, there is something else very interesting that can be found on the inside cover: personalized gift messages usually in the form of a Christmas or birthday gift. I have many books with Christmas messages to a son or grandson, from parents or grandparents, dating from these periods in time. Unfortunately, we now live in a time where literature is not as treasured. In fact, it is hard to find many individuals who even take the time to read.
This Christmas, consider giving the gift of literature to your loved one. If the person on your gift list is a shooter, especially if they are interested in hunting, there are many options available. What I have found is that if you give someone one book, it might go unread, but if you give him or her multiple books by the same author, they are more likely to read them. There are four authors that I have found to always be a hit with the individuals to whom I introduce them: Paul Du Chaillu, Jim Corbett, Robert Ruark, and Peter Hathaway Capstick.
Paul Du Chaillu
Paul Du Chaillu (1831-1903) was an early American explorer of Central Africa and is credited with the discovery of the gorilla and the indigenous pygmy peoples. Du Chaillu later traveled to Scandinavia to chronicle life in the arctic region of Europe. When Du Chaillu returned to America in between African adventures, he would speak at museums and other forums. He especially enjoyed getting youth excited about learning about their world.
Some of the African adventure books by Paul Du Chaillu include, “Explorations and Adventure in Equatorial Africa”; “Stories of the Gorilla Country”; “The Country of the Dwarfs”; “My Apingi Kingdom”; and “Wildlife Under the Equator.” The Scandinavian books include, “The Land of the Midnight Sun”; and “The Viking Age.” Remember that these books were written in the late 1800s, and there are not many contemporary printings. You may have to find first edition copies starting around 1870.
Jim Corbett (1875-1955) lived in India when it was a colony of Great Britain. He never thought he would be a professional hunter. He worked for the railroad as a fuel inspector. Corbett rose to fame and ultimately had a national park named after him for coming to the rescue of Indians that were being killed by leopards and tigers. He did this by going into the jungle and oftentimes used himself as bait. Jim Corbett saved countless lives by first terminating the Panar Leopard in 1910, which was credited for killing more than 400 people. Other famous maneaters Corbett killed were the Champawat Tiger, Rudrapryag Leopard, Thak Tiger, Muktesar Tiger, and the Chowgarh Tigress. Altogether, these maneaters killed over 1,500 people.
There are four notable books by Jim Corbett that would be a great collection for any library. These include “Man-Eaters of Kumaon”; “Temple Tigers & Tree Tops”; “Leopard of Rudrapryag”; and “Jungle Lore.” The bravery conveyed by Jim Corbett in these books are what legends are made of!
Robert Ruark (1915-1965) is probably one of the best outdoor writers compared to anyone else in the United States. He is credited with 16 books, four of which were published after his death. Even with 16 books, Robert Ruark is best known for his magazine articles. He started writing for Field and Stream magazine in 1953 and ran uninterrupted until late 1961. The majority of these magazine articles were a fictional account of being raised in rural North Carolina and being mentored by the Old Man. The Old Man was modeled after both his grandfathers but mostly from his maternal grandfather, Captain Edward “Ned” Hall Adkins. Ruark’s African safaris made up the rest of his magazine articles. Later in life, Ruark struck up a great friendship with Earnest Hemingway.
There are four Robert Ruark books that are very popular, especially with hunters. These books are a collection of his magazine articles, including “The Old Man and The Boy”; “The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older”; “The Lost Classics” and “Use Enough Gun,” the last two being published after his death. Since these are a collection of magazine articles, all these books are easy to read. If you are a nostalgic type of person, these books will bring back a lot of memories. If you are younger, these books are a wonderful glimpse into early rural America.
Peter Hathaway Capstick
Peter Capstick (1940-1996) walked away from a successful career on Wall Street to go to Africa and become a professional hunter and author. In the early to mid-1990s, hunting and shooting club’s annual meetings, and hunting and fishing shows and conventions were not complete unless Peter Capstick was the keynote speaker. Capstick’s writing style is often compared to that of Earnest Hemingway and Robert Ruark.
There are many good Peter Capstick books to give to anyone who enjoys shooting, hunting, and has a sense of adventure. Many of his books focus on others who were met with a grueling end. His books “Death in a Lonely Land”; “Death in the Dark Continent”; “Death in The Long Grass” “Death in The Silent Places”; and “Maneaters” are sure to keep any reader’s interest. His other books such as “Sands off Silence”; “A Return to Silent Places”; “A Return to the Long Grass” and “Last Horizons” are an excellent pre-electronic age look into African safaris.
Reading is a lost art to many Americans, so this is why gifts of literature are so special. One reason for this is that our electronic devices have taken away our natural love of books. Many times, giving books as gifts gets someone who otherwise would not open a book to start reading again. Just like our Elementary School teachers told us, reading opens the world up to you. I like to think that reading also opens the past, so we understand our future. The gift of reading is the best present you can give. Do not forget to add that special note inside the front cover!