Monday, August 4, 2008

The Sea Serpents Around Us

A few posts back I mentioned a book on sea serpents that I read back in grade school, and that I had been trying to hunt down for years. I remembered that it had been written and illustrated by a husband and wife team, was in black and white, and had been published before 1970. After an extensive search, I found a book I thought fit the bill, and at a venture sent off for it. It turned out to be the right one.

The Sea Serpents Around Us, by Louis and Lois Darling, published 1965. Louis Darling is (or was) famous for illustrating all the Beverly Cleary books (Ramona, Ribsy, etc.) and The Mouse On The Motorcycle books. His wife Lois was a keen boatswoman and artist herself. Together they illustrated Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the early environmentalist. It was undoubtedly their naturalist expertise on the ocean that made them such convincing illustrators for this book, and surely Lois is responsible for the little gems of accuracy of several period ships.

The book itself starts with a wise old sea serpent putting its head on their boat while they're sailing one day. It tells them the history of sea serpents, including several famous examples like the Loch Ness Monster and the Manchester Sea Serpent. A whimsical ancestral chart is shown, which includes dinosaurs, dragons, and crocodiles. The authors explain that after bounties and rewards were placed on sea serpents heads, they all decided to go into hiding and pretend to be extinct. Much of the book is rather tongue-in-cheek, but to us it was a beginning introduction to cryptozoology, and one of the elements that put it over to us was the very solidity of the pictures.

Speaking of pictures, the very dimensions of the book make scanning an example diffcult. Most of them stretch over two pages at a time, making them about 14 inches long. The truncated sample I prepared doesn't seem to want to download right now; but I think that might be Blogger's fault. I'll try again later.
Added note: Success!

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