Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

Dust jacket of the first book in the New Naturalist series, E B Ford's Butterflies

The dust jacket of the first book in the New Naturalist series, E B Ford’s Butterflies

The New Naturalist books are a series published by Collins on a variety of natural history topics relevant to the British Isles. It is the longest-running and arguably the most influential natural history series in the world with more than 100 volumes published over almost 70 years.

The first to appear was E B Ford’s Butterflies in 1945. The authors of the series are usually eminent experts, often professional scientists, giving the series authority. The books are written in scientific style, but are intended to be readable by the non-specialist, and are an early example of popular science in the media. Being a numbered series, with a very low print run for some volumes, they are highly collectable. Second-hand copies of the rarer volumes, in very good condition, can command high prices. There is a New Naturalist Collectors Club, which publishes three or four newsletters each year.

Some of the dust jackets for the books in the New Naturalist series

Some of the dust jackets for the books in the New Naturalist series

The dust jacket illustrations are stunning and have a distinctive style. Until 1985, the illustrations were done by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis. Since then Robert Gillmor has designed the dust jackets..

Volume 82, The New  Naturalists, describes the series to date, with authors’ biographies and a guide to collecting the books. A detailed history of the dust-jackets can be found in Art of the New Naturalists by Peter Marren, which was published by Collins in 2009. A full list of the 136 volumes that have been published to date can be found here.


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Christine Granville, Polish-born, British Second World War secret agent

Christine Granville, Polish-born British WWII secret agent

Over 140 agents from the highly secret Special Operations Executive (SOE) died in Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War. The SOE was formed in July 1940 on the direct orders of the prime minister, Winston Churchill, who wanted a clandestine army ‘… to set Europe ablaze’. If captured, these agents faced severe interrogation, and possible torture and execution. Over 60 women served in the SOE.

In Kensal Green Cemetery in west London is the grave of one of the women who survived the war, Christine Granville (born Krystyna Skarbek in Poland), who became celebrated for her daring exploits in intelligence and irregular-warfare missions in Nazi-occupied Poland and France. She became a British agent months before the SOE was founded, and began using the nom de guerre Christine Granville in 1941, a name she legally adopted on naturalisation as a British citizen in December 1946. Skarbek was one of the longest-serving of all Britain’s wartime women agents, and she was awarded the George Cross in 1944, and the Croix de Guerre in recognition of her contribution to the liberation of France.

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