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Rowland Ward's Records of Big Game 30th Edn. Africa

Rowland Ward


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Quick Overview

For more than two-and-a-half years the production team at Rowland Ward Ltd. has been hard at work preparing the 30th edition of its iconic Records of Big Game.  In order to create an “entirely new” record book, this one on African game animals, we decided to implement the following: We have included photos of the highest scoring heads, based upon a strict policy of ethics and aesthetics; we have made the book “user friendly” by completely reorganizing the layout of the book according to traditional methods used by naturalists and hunters as well as by biological kinship; we have created—with particular pride we might add—83 new maps featuring over 200 varieties of African game animals that illustrate accurate, current game distributions in great detail and full color; and, finally, we have completely reshaped the table of contents and index to make the search for a specific species easy to do. 

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2020 Long Beach, 824pp, 325 color and B&W images, 85 distribution maps, 8.5x11, hardcover, includes 16pp game book inserted in back inside cover
ISBN: 978-1-57157-474-9 

Available in Europe at Coch-Y-Bonddu Books.

Available in Africa at Halseton & Co.

For more than two-and-a-half years the production team at Rowland Ward Ltd. has been hard at work preparing the 30th edition of its iconic Records of Big Game.  In order to create an “entirely new” record book, this one on African game animals, we decided to implement the following: We have included photos of the highest scoring heads, based upon a strict policy of ethics and aesthetics; we have made the book “user friendly” by completely reorganizing the layout of the book according to traditional methods used by naturalists and hunters as well as by biological kinship; we have created—with particular pride we might add—83 new maps featuring over 200 varieties of African game animals that illustrate accurate, current game distributions in great detail and full color; and, finally, we have completely reshaped the table of contents and index to make the search for a specific species easy to do. 

In addition to our internally scanned and paper records, this edition also contains information from two significant private archives, one in the United Kingdom and the other in the United States. Dating from 1897 to 1971, these archives yielded a great deal of information on the Rowland Ward company from the time when it was first based in London, at 166 Piccadilly. Included in these were old albums, measurements, articles, photos, notes and ledgers by James Rowland Ward, and notes from Richard Lydekker, the most eminent biologist of the Victorian era.  Many significant historical photos and a great deal of measurement data were unearthed, all of which have been featured in the new edition. In total, the Africa volume of Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game now lists in excess of 40,000 records dating back to 1840.

This new edition also includes 14 new world records in these categories:  zebra duiker, Damara dik-dik, Bates pygmy antelope, Harar dik-dik, common nyala, common waterbuck, Cape eland, Shoan bushbuck, blue wildebeest, island sitatunga, water chevrotain, brown hyena, mountain nyala, and southern impala. In addition there is a new No. 3 Nile buffalo as well as dozens of new top-ten heads.  You’ll find several new elephant entries with tusks in excess of 130 pounds per side, and, while these were not shot in recent times, they had never previously been recorded. Also newly recorded is a lesser kudu of more than 33 inches that was shot in Tanzania.

Of great interest to hunters will be our recovery of long lost photos of very large heads from the past: four elephants with tusks of over 150 pounds per side; a mountain nyala with 44-plus-inch horns; and James C.  Rous’s much-debated greater kudu. This kudu was shot in 1916 but photographed, with the hunter and the mounted head, amazingly only after World War II. In all, the archives yielded over 325 images, making this edition the best illustrated ever.  Some other photos never seen before include the world-record northern white rhino; the Nos. 1 and 3 southern white rhinos; Frederik Selous’s southern white rhino; the Nos. 1, 3, 4, and 5 black rhinos; 5 of the top-twenty elephants, including the world record; 5 of the 15 largest mountain nyalas ever recorded; 2 top-ten leopards; 2 top-ten lions; and 4 top-fifteen Cape buffaloes. (Look for our new ranking method for the three larger buffalo varieties in Africa—Cape, Nile, and Central African; we now add the sum of the two bosses and the spread.)  

Established in 1892 in London, Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game is the oldest record-book series in the world and this new edition is its best ever!

Available in Africa at Halseton & Co.

Available in Europe at Coch-Y-Bonddu Books.

Customer Reviews

Rowland Ward's Records of Big Game Review by African Hunting Gazette, 2021 Spring
In 1892, James Rowland Ward (1848– 1912), a British taxidermist, well-known publisher of natural history books and big-game hunting narratives, and the founder of the firm Rowland Ward Limited of Piccadilly, London, published the first of what has become an eponymous series of books, the Records of Big Game. Now, nearly 130 years later, the thirtieth edition has been released. Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game – Thirtieth Edition, Africa (Rowland Ward Publications, 2020, 824 pages).

The record book journeyed beyond the family business some years ago, landing in California in 2015, where it’s now part of the group that publishes Sports Afield magazine and books under the Safari Press name. To the credit of the new owners, this edition is, without question, the best yet. It isn’t merely a rehash of the previous edition (2014) with updated records of game taken in the last half-dozen years. It’s clear that the publishers spent considerable time and effort seeking new information, new entrants and new photos, not just from recent times but from long-lost and forgotten files and archives.

The book is well laid out; records and game animals are broken down by their family, then subfamily, genus and, finally, species, and with an easy-to-follow table of contents, finding those game animals that interest you most is quick and simple. Distribution maps showing the current range of each species are clear, accurate and easily deciphered. Written summaries of the physical description and geographic distribution for each species, along with critical supporting notes, are informative and easily understood; they’re just long enough to be informative without being laborious to read.

For those not familiar, Rowland Ward records game by measurement without providing a ranking or, in some cases, providing a summary “score.” Antelope, as an example, are listed in order by the length of their longest horn; also provided, where available, is the length of the second horn and the circumference of each.

The photo support throughout the book is superb, a mix of historic black-and-white photos and more current color images. For many, it’s the black-and-white pics that evoke the most emotional response, harkening back to a time when hunting Africa, the “Dark Continent,” was considerably less common, and much more exotic, than it is today.

Historic record-keeping is more than simply an ego-driven compilation of whose animal is bigger. These lists reveal significant information about each species, including when and where the largest animals were taken, and studious hunters will learn plenty about where to go to if they’re seeking a book-sized specimen. To help facilitate this, records listed that are new to the thirtieth edition are marked with an asterisk.

At 824 pages, some 200 species of game, 100 or so full-color maps, and in excess of 40,000 records dating back to the mid-1800s, this is more than just another book about African hunting to put on your shelf. This is one of those books that can provide hours upon hours of fascination, inspiration and education as you dream about and plan for your next African safari. (Posted on 2/22/2021)
Truly well done-great work! Review by Bob Kern-Hunting Consortium
I have read a bit of it already and am anxious to read more. I think you have set a new standard for scientific accuracy and attractive execution. (Posted on 7/9/2020)
Best one ever Review by Mynhard Herholdt-Northern Cape Professional Hunting School
Congratulations on the new record book. It is definitely the best one ever. (Posted on 7/7/2020)
A Continent between Hardcovers Review by Thomas McIntyre
For the late novelist (A Clockwork Orange), linguist, and polymath Anthony Burgess, there was nothing “as important as the box of organized knowledge” which he “acronymized into B.O.O.K.” Though movable type for book printing was invented as early as the Song Dynasty in China, it was Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the hand mold for casting metal type that industrialized book manufacture. For more than five hundred years, books have been the preferred devices for the telling of stories or the transfer of information, tasks that digital devices are, for better or worse, overtaking. There are books, though, that are objects in and of themselves, more than mere respositories of words.
I have spent hour upon hour visiting atlases, encyclopedias, familiar quotations, almanacs, handbooks, catalogs, biographical dictionaries, even language dictionaries, the happy sensation closer to that of wandering in galleries or museums than to reading text. Then there are record books.
The gallimaufry of the Guinness book comes to mind. And for North American big game, there is the Boone and Crockett book. Older than both, arguably more interesting, has been the one Rowland Ward first compiled and published in London in 1892. He titled it Horn Measurements and Weights of the Great Game of the World, being a Record for the use of Sportsmen and Naturalists, four years later to change it to Records of Big Game. And for 127 years, it has remained in publication.
I trace my relationship to the Records of Big Game to Vakaga prefecture at the northern peak of the Central African Republic in the winter of 1984. We set out on foot from Ouanda Djallé, six hunters and observers, PHs, trackers, porters, three camels, and a horse, jettisoning everything not essential to the safari and leaving it behind in the village. Gun cases, extra clothes, spare shoes. What was essential was a copy of the 19th edition of the Rowland Ward book.
We didn’t have a family Bible in the C.A.R., but we had the Rowland Ward book to drop into in spare moments—at meals or while sitting out the heat of the day in the shade. We weren’t looking for benchmarks for the game we were after (at least not everyone was) but simply to immerse ourselves even more in the wildlife around us, like holding an avatar of Africa in your hands while all around you spread Africa in actuality. That is the value of a record book, not in rankings but in placing an animal in context among others of its species and subspecies. What is the first thing field biologists do after darting and sedating a wild animal? Measure it. And those measurements are the most fundamental facts they can gather about one animal itself and in comparison to others of its kind. Not even the most adamantine animal-rights advocate can begrudge the box of organized knowledge that accretes in a record book like Rowland Ward.
It would be ingenuous to suspect Rowland Ward himself of not having any ulterior motive in publishing Horn Measurements and Weights in 1892. Born in 1848, James Rowland Ward came from several generations of traders in animal skins and skeletons and taxidermists. His father, Edwin Henry, accompanied John James Audubon on bird-collecting expeditions in America. Ward left school at fourteen and joined his father’s taxidermy studios. He also wanted to be a sculptor and produced bronzes along with his taxidermy work throughout his life. Oddly, Ward was not a big-game hunter, but a keen pheasant shooter and angler. He seems not to have enjoyed visiting uncomfortable climates.
He was, however, someone at the right place at the right time. He prepared mounted animals at the height of the British Empire under Queen Victoria into the Edwardian period. At a time when a quarter of the globe was awash in imperial pink, Britain had the income and the colonies and commonwealths to engage in the greatest hunting in the world, from long-established shikars in India, expeditions to Canada, and, starting in the last decades of the nineteenth century and overtaking all other hunting grounds, huge areas of Africa to safari across. Rowland Ward was the gold standard of taxidermists of the era. It was likely that more and more varied wild game from more parts of the planet came through his shop in Picadilly than through any other single location in the world.
In the preface to the 1892 edition, Ward stated his object in producing the book to be “to start a record of Horn Measurements of the Great Game of the World.” Measurement was an important part of his process of creating mounted animals, so it is understandable that in recording the statistics his “only regret” was, in light of all the trophies which came into his hands, that he “did not commence it at an earlier date.” And, returning to another possible motive, he hastened to disclaim the book as being “designed . . . in any way a scientific work,” but one “prepared for gentlemen sportsmen and scientific men who are interested to see comparable measurements at a glance.” It was the sportsmen he was clearly appealing to, for the simple reason that as differences of opinion make horse races, the question of who has taken, or will take, the largest head of any big-game animal makes for more hunts and more trophies likely to pass through the hands of Mr. Rowland Ward.
It’s evident Ward, according to P.A. Morris’s Rowland Ward, Taxidermist to the World, understood the media of his day and how to manipulate it. Whenever he mounted an unusual animal (such as a hedgehog for the Royal Automobile Society in 1903, causing a flat and damage to a motor vehicle when it was run over) or a famous one (champion racehorses were a favorite), he made sure the press was notified, even planting blind newspaper items about himself and his business across Great Britain. It’s hard to distinguish Records of Big Game as not being part of such a publicity enterprise.
When the taxidermy business ended in the mid-1970s, though, the promotional aspect of the book was clearly done. Today, the book may be, by itself, the single greatest product of Rowland Ward, and the new 30th edition, Africa, perhaps the greatest of all the editions.
Rowland Ward Ltd.’s production team, with access to all the past editions of the book, and to two extensive private archives from 1897 and 1971 from the U.K. and U.S., has been at work for more than two and a half years on this latest edition, and it’s hard not to call the result a masterpiece. The numbers alone are astounding: forty thousand entries dating back to 1840, more than eight hundred pages, 210 African species, 14 newly recognized world’s records, 325 new and rare vintage photos (the first inclusion of photos in the book since prior to World War II) that avoid the pitfall of grip-and-grin, 85 color distribution maps, in a generous 8½×11-inch format, every inch of which is put to good use. Each animal category has its own written description that is well-crafted and informative. Notes come in to add to the knowledge (e.g., “The Soemmerring’s gazelle is named after German physicist Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring”). It’s a book both authoritative and lively.
The 30th edition does not ignore the conservation aspects of the records. The larger buffalo—Cape, Nile, and Central African—for example, are now measured on the greatest width of spread plus the width of the two bosses, added together. This will encourage the taking of older bulls with harder bosses. Other changes in measuring methods can influence similar selective hunting of other animals and to better management of them. The 30th edition continues to exclude captive-bred lions, and game taken by other unethical practices, from acceptance in the book.
What is the experience of a book like this? It is like visiting a treasure-house of wildlife and an evocation of the Africa we know and have known. It is also where you will find the names you recognize from across the centuries in Africa: F.C. Selous, James Mellon, Russell Aitken, H.I.H. Prince Abdorreza of Iran, Lord Delamere, Dr. Frank Hibben, Herb Klein, Count de Yebes, Hector Cuellar, Jack O’Connor, Richard Meinertzhagen, even Jimmy Robinson, Sports Afield’s famed and curmudgeonly trap-shooting editor, who took the longstanding No. 1 southern gerenuk with Patrick Hemingway as his professional hunter. There are bittersweet pleasures, too, of coming upon the names of hunters with whom you shared camps and fire rings, now gone. Some of us, though, are still here; and in the book there may even be the momentary recognition of ourselves in the listing of an animal, such as a western bush duiker from the Central African Republic, drawing you into remembrance of when you first carried your copy of Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game and opened it under the African sky—and found the continent reflected back to you in its pages.
Jan/Feb 2020 Sports Afield magazine

(Posted on 7/1/2020)

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Rowland Ward