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

Rowland Ward


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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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