The Terrarium. Dr Burgess Barnett

Very few books on reptiles and amphibians, let alone keeping reptiles and amphibians, were published during the middle decades of the 20th century. Even when they were published they were in print for only a short time and soon disappeared from booksellers’ shelves. One day in the late 1950s I found Hardy Reptiles and Amphibians by L.G. Payne in a bookshop. It was undated but marked as the second edition. It was clearly from the early 1950s because it had a full-page advertisement on the back (paper) cover for Robert Jackson (Naturalists) Ltd at an old address. The advertisement contained the statement, We are at present importing on Board of Trade permit for resale to zoos, schools etc, but have many species, native, and bred in captivity, for sale in the open market. In other words, postwar austerity was at it height when this version of the booklet was published and the £ sterling was being protected.

Inside the front cover was an advertisement for The Terrarium, a book by Dr Burgess Barnett (Curator of Reptiles, London Zoological Gardens). I never managed to find a copy and only later did I learn that Burgess Barnett had left London Zoo in 1938 for Rangoon, so whatever its content, it was 20 years out of date when I began my interest in reptiles and amphibians. Indeed, only recently have I acquired a copy.


These old books are interesting because they show how knowledge of keeping reptiles and amphibians has advanced and at what level such knowledge was at a particular time in history. However, I was also intrigued by who Burgess Barnett was and what happened to him. The main story of Barnett is beyond the subject of this Blog. It continues on my main zoology blog:

The book is undated but according to the catalogues was published in 1934. The publishers were Poultry World of Dorset House, Stamford Street, London. Poultry World were also the publishers of the weekly, Cage Birds, until recently.

You can download the book in .pdf format from the Download page, above or directly from here:

The Terrarium


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