Books by William Beebe
C. William Beebe, Curator of Ornithology of the New York Zoological Park. Illustrated with Beebe's own photographs, 408 pages (w/ index). Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1905.
This book is about Will and his first wife Blair's trip to Mexico to study and collect birds for the New York Zoological Park. (Winter of 1903-04).
Review below, New York Times Oct 21, 1905
Beebe dedicates the book to his wife, "the other bird lover." Blair had never ridden horseback before, but the entire trip was spent riding horseback.
The volcano Colima was erupting and causing earthquakes during their stay.
Blair wrote the last chapter of the book, "How We Did It."
Quotes from Blair's chapter:
"To the woman who is courageous enough to defy the expostulations of her friends and to undertake a camping trip to Mexico, let me say that I congratulate her on having before her one of the most unique and fascinating experiences of her life; that is if she goes in the proper spirit. And the proper spirit is to be interested in everything and to have one's mind firmly made up to ignore small discomforts."
"What a glorious thing is a cold plunge in early morning in the swift-flowing river near the tent, where the night before the deer drank, and along which all the furtive wild creatures of the night stealthily made their way in the moonlight. Here one feels how good a thing it is to be alive, to be hungry and to eat, to be weary and to sleep."
Quotes from the book by Will:
"Pausing a moment, on the narrow summit of the dividing cliff, we watch the dull glow above the crater of the volcano. It is quiet now, after a few days of more than usual activity. Its lurid reflection is the wildest touch in this landscape of black chasms and shadowless plains."
"A strange cry comes from some bird of the night high overhead, and as we are about to resume our way, a muffled sound comes from the great barranca far to our left,-a sonorous growling roar which rises to a scream,-cut short off.
"It has been described to us by some American miners, and now we know it instantly for the cry of the jaguar, a sound new to us and setting every nerve a-quiver with love of the wilderness,-above which, afterall, is but slightly 'sicklied o'er' with a veneer of our civilization. Few of us are without this feeling."
The Bird: It's Form and Function
New York, Henry Holt and Company. 1906. 17 chapters, 370 illustrations, 496 pages.
This book is Beebe's first technical book, a 100% scientific examination of the bird. Some chapters appeared in Outing, Bird-Lore and the New York Evening Post. Beebe dedicates the book to his former teacher at Columbia University, Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn. Very technical and boring. This book is the source of Beebe's famous quote:
"The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again."
New York, Henry. Holt and Company. 1906. 321+ pages. Book has 52 full-page tinted illustrations by Walter King Stone and photos.
A collection of essays, Beebe writes of the year's cycle, with a chapter for all 52 weeks. He dedicates the book to his parents.
Quotes from the book:
"But winter is a stubborn foe, and sometimes his snow and icicle battalions will not give way a foot. Though by day the sun's fierce attack may drench the earth with the watery blood of the ice legions, yet at night, silently and grimly, new reserves of cold repair the damage."
"At night the ripples and foam of the Fundy shores seem transformed to molten silver and gold, and after each receeding wave the emerald seaweed is left dripping with millions of sparkling lights, shining with a living lustre which would pale the brightest gem. Each of these countless sparks is a tiny animal, as perfect in its substance and as well adapted to its cycle of life as the highest created being."
C. William Beebe and Mary Blair Beebe
New York, Henry Holt and Company. 1910. 408 pages with Beebe's photos. Includes index and alphabetical listings of birds. The book is about the Beebes' two Ornithological expeditions to Venezuela and British Guiana.
They departed New York by steamer on February 22, 1908. They disembarked at Port of Spain Trinidad on March 9th. They departed New York by another steamer on their second trip February 15th 1909. They sailed to British Guiana and arrived February 24th and made three expeditions.
(They traveled through Mangrove swamps)
They brought back 40 specimens of 14 species on their first trip, but that wasn't their primary purpose. On the second trip they took Mr. Lee S. Crandall. Crandall later became Beebe's replacement as Curator of Birds when Beebe's duties took him away from the zoological park for long durations. On this trip, Crandall assisted in trapping and getting the natives involved in bird collecting. The team was responsible for assembling 300 living birds of 51 species which were brought to the zoological park. Small mammals and reptiles were also collected.
The Beebes dedicate their book to Blair's grandparents, Judge and Mrs. Roger A. Pryor. Judge Pryor was a notable supreme court judge in New York.
(Blair rides in a canoe)
The Beebes encountered the Hoatzin bird on this trip. The babies have a claw at the end of their wings which helps them climb around branches on their nesting trees. When alarmed, the Hoatzin babies drop into the water from their nests overhanging the water. They then use the claws to climb back up their tree, returning to their nest and safety. They later loose the claws.
Quote by Beebe:
" At first all was easy going, but as I ascended I broke off numerous dead twigs and from the broken stub of each issued a horde of black stinging ants. These hastened my ascent and at last I made my way out on the swaying upper branches."
On the second trip Blair's hammock broke and she fell seven feet to the ground and broke her wrist. Her reaction: "Oh! We can't get the Hoatzins!"
Beebe on ants (at left with his anti-ant uniform):
"Until one becomes accustomed to these scenes of carnage the sight is really terrible, especially when one lies down flat and takes an ant's-eye view of the field of battle. Yet such is the fierceness and savage fury on one side and hopeless terror or frantic efforts to escape on the part of the victims that it needs but little imagination to stir deeply one's sympathies."
Blair on her trip:
Beebe's concluding paragraph:
Tropical Wild Life in British Guiana
William Beebe with G. Inness Hartley and Paul G. Howes.
New York, Henry Holt and Company. 1918, 297 pages.
With Beebe's photos and index. More chapters on Hoatzins, army ants, jungle observations. Beebe dedicates the book to: Colonel and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt also writes the introduction, first published in the New York Times' review of books.
Beebe pioneered the concept of studying wildlife in one designated spot, hence his chapter, "A Yard of Jungle." This was a revolutionary concept. Instead of exploring and encountering wildlife at random, for one week Beebe specifically decided to observe one yard of jungle and everything that happened inside that one yard. His findings were significant.
Quote by Beebe:
"For a full week I invited torture by attempting to study the bird-life of this single (cinnamon) tree. This thing had not been done before; it might not be worth the doing. But testing such possibilities are as important to a naturalist's work as following along the more conventional and consequently more certain lines of investigation. I had no time for exploration of the surrounding country; so I had determined to risk all my precious hours upon intensive observation in one spot."
"Within five minutes the daily downpour of tropical rain would drench the jungle. At this moment the air was tense with electricity, absolutely motionless, and saturated with odorous moisture. The voices of all the wild creatures were hushed. The sense of mystery which is always so dominant in a tropical jungle seemed nearer, more vital, but more than ever a mystery. Its insistency made one oblivious of the great heat. The beating of one's heart became a perceptible sound, absurdly loud. All the swamp and jungle seemed listening to it."
Colonel Roosevelt writes of Beebe's adventures: "All of these he will some time put before us, in volumes not one of which can be spared from the library of any man who loves life and literature."
Four volume set published under the auspices of the New York Zoological Society, London, H.F.Witherby and Company, 1918-22. Vol. 1, 1918 (198 pages); vol. 2, 1921 (269 pages); vol. 3, 1922 (204 pages); vol. 4, 1922 (242 pages). There is a reprint copy that was published by Dover. The volumes have been consolidated into two.
The original set contains more than a half million words, all typed by Blair after the trip. This mammoth 17-month-long expedition was funded by one of the society's benefactor's and managers, Colonel Anthony R. Kuser. Col. Kuser was the VP of the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey and a wealthy pheasant affectionado. He put up $60K for the expedition's expenses which included the hiring of the best bird artists in the world who painted plates for the monograph. He also funded all the printing, binding and publicity. Beebe's wife Blair Blair Rice accompanied him.
Will and Blair sailed from New York to Europe on December 31, 1909 on the Lusitania.
They returned May 1911. Artists seem to like these books to paint from as the set includes 88 beautiful photogravures of pheasants in their native haunts.
The entire set is very expensive (fetching between $2,500 to $5,000). Volume One was published in 1918 and Beebe had completed the manuscript. Then World War I broke out. Because the books were being printed in England and the plates in Vienna, publication of the remaining volumes was delayed until the end of the war.
The New York Zoological Park's Director, William Temple Hornaday was against Beebe going on this long expedition which was supposed to be only four months in duration. Hornaday realized that the expedition would probably take up to two years and then there would be a year or so in addition that Beebe would spend in researching and writing the monograph.
Hornaday wrote a letter to the society's director, Madison Grant declaring that Beebe, by leaving on the pheasant expedition, was going to throw away his promising ornithologist career. Hornaday told Grant and Henry Osborn that Beebe was just a plaything for the wealthy Kuser and that if Beebe left on the trip, Kuser would be known as the Evil Genius of the park. Hornaday forbid his going and threatened to end his friendly relations with Beebe. Hornaday told Beebe that when he returned, he would no longer have a job and told Grant that he would fill his position with someone else who he could depend on.
The society's executive committee fully supported Beebe's trip. Hornaday eventually relented and when Beebe returned the hero, Hornaday welcomed him back with open arms and Beebe became Honorary Curator of Birds. But Hornaday's protestations were only to Grant and Osborn and he never made public any of his mumblings he made before Beebe left.
New York Times Announcement about Monograph, Jan. 19, 1916.
Despite saying that no one would ever read such an expensive book, Hornaday gave the monograph a rave review in the society's Bulletin, "...to Colonel Kuser, Mr. Beebe. the various artists represented, and the publisher we say-well done!"
With her husband at her side, Blair was the first white woman to explore into the interior of Borneo. They met headhunting Dyaks and watched a native dance.
Osborn: "This (monograph) is a profound study of the living pheasants in their natural environment in various parts of eastern Asia. There are nineteen groups of these birds; eighteen were successfully hunted with the camera, with field-glasses, and when necessary for identification, with the shotgun..."
... "The journey occupied seventeen months, extended over twenty countries, and resulted in a rare abundance of material, both literary-concerning the life histories of birds-and pictorial, photographs and sketches. The illustrations are by leading American and British artists. The haunts of the pheasants are shown in the author's photographs ranging from the slopes of the Himalayan snow-peaks, 16,000 feet above the sea, to the tropical seashores of Java." (Science, "Second Award of the Elliot Medal," Nov. 21, 1919, p.473)
After completing the mammoth pheasant expedition, that "left him with a decidedly pessimistic outlook as regards even to the more immediate future of these splendid birds. I realized that even if I repeated the trip at once, there were some which I should not be able to see again." ("The Evolution and Destruction of Life," Scientific American Supplement No. 2234, Oct. 26, 1918). After the trip, Beebe spent three months of 1912 in Europe researching various museums for the monograph.
Argus Pheasant Feather Quote
"Double-Spotted Argus Pheasant. (Argusianus bipunctatus)"
"This species is known only from the portion of a primary feather of a male bird. In 1871 this was found among some loose Argus feathers in the British Museum, described and named by Mr. T.W. Wood. It differs so decidedly from any corresponding feather in the known species that there is little doubt that it represents a new species, although we have no idea of the country in which it lives. The general colour is similar to that of an Argus primary, but the reddish-brown band minutely dotted with white specks which is so prominent a characteristic on the inner web of the normal Argus feather is, in this fragment, repeated on the outer web as well. These bands cover much of the segment, and the shaft is unusually narrow and attenuated. If this should prove to be an unusual variation, it is interesting to note that it is in the direction of increased complexity of colour and pattern."
Edge of the Jungle
Henry Holt and Co., 1921, 303 pages.
Topics include Army Ants, butterflies, jungle studies.
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1924, 439 pages.
Twenty-four color illustrations by Isabel Cooper. Eighty-three photos. Color plates, maps, etc. Lots of information about the Galapagos Islands, tortoises, iguana, etc.
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1925, 201 pages.
Back to the jungle.
The Arcturus Adventure
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1926, 439 pages.
Account of Beebe's oceanographic expedition. Seventy-seven illustrations from color plates, many photographs, maps, etc. Includes information about the Sargasso Sea, Albatrosses, Cocos Islands, searching for buried treasure, helmet diving, etc.
Pheasants, Their Lives and Homes
Doubleday, Page and Co., 1926, Vol. 1 (257 pages), vol. 2 (309 pages).
In 1936 the set was re-issued with both volumes included in the one book. This was a more affordable compilation of the Monograph series. Beebe updates and rewrites the Monograph, eliminating a lot of the scientific details.
Reads more as an adventure exploration account of the Beebe's trip around the world researching pheasants for the Monograph. The cover on the right is a reprinted version.
Brewer, Warren & Putnam, 1932, 259 pages. Fifty-five illustrations.
About expeditions at Nonsuch, Bermuda. First book in three-part series about the ocean around Bermuda.
Exploring With Beebe
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1932, 208 pages.
Excerpts of Beebe's writings tailored towards young readers.
Field Book of the Shore Fishes of Bermuda
Half Mile Down
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1934, 344 pages.
This is an account of Beebe's and Otis Barton's Bathysphere dives off Bermuda.
"I can only think of one experience that might exceed in interest a few hours spent under water and that would be a journey to Mars." - William Beebe
(Above from Wikimedia Commons)
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1938, 308 pages, 24 illustrations.
Zaca is the boat Beebe used for an oceanographic expedition off San Diego, CA.
Book of Bays
Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1942, 302 pages.
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1945, 499 pages.
Beebe edited this book. It is a compilation of various writings; Rachel Carson wrote the final chapter.
Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1949, 379 pages.
Unseen Life of New York (As a Naturalist Sees It)
Adventuring With Beebe
More excerpts from Beebe's writings. (Sort of a Best of Compilation)
Online Books(links to where you may download and view. Some are in different formats like Portable Document Format (you will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader); or text or even Kindle e-book format.
The Arcturus Adventure
Beneath Tropic Seas
The Bird: It's Form and Function
Edge of the Jungle
Half Mile Down
The Log of the Sun
Nonsuch: Land of Water
Our Search for a Wilderness
Two Bird Lovers in Mexico
Tropical wild life in British Guiana : Zoological contributions from the Tropical research station of the New York zoological society (1917)
(Beebe, William : Search Results)
Book by Elswyth Thane
The Family Quarrel A Journey Through The Years Of The Revolution (1959)
Book by Blair Niles
A Journey In Time Peruvian Pageant (1937)
The Official William Beebe Web Site is copyrighted 2000 - 2012 by Catharine L. Hines. All rights reserved. No images may be reproduced as many of them are copyrighted and are used with permission of the copyright holder. Last updated March 2012.