Water Life Magazine 1936-1958: Part 1

The front cover of Water Life, 14 March 1939

The front cover of Water Life, 14 March 1939

I shall start this story at the end. In the late 1950s, a series of booklets, including Hardy Reptiles and Amphibians by L.G. Payne and Land and Water Tortoises by Amphibius, was being advertised and published as the ‘Water Life’ Series. I have covered them earlier and you can download copies. The publisher was Water Life, Dorset House, Stamford Street, London and was part of the Poultry World publishing empire, until recently the owners of what was Cage Birds and then Cage & Aviary Birds.

Inside the back cover of the booklets, Water Life is described as a periodical produced to foster and cater for the interests of the aquatic hobby all over the world. Publication was described as every alternate month. I searched for the magazine in newsagents and bookstalls without success. Only recently have I discovered that Water Life, by then called Fishkeeping and Water Life ceased publication in December 1958, a few months after I developed a burgeoning interest in amphibians and reptiles. Over the past year or so I have acquired some copies of the magazine but they are difficult to find.

The Zoo library catalogue outlines the stages in the rise and fall of Water Life. It was first published in 1936. From March 1940 until June 1941, presumably as paper restrictions were imposed during the war, it was incorporated in Animal and Zoo Magazine, the official magazine of the Zoological Society of London until publication ceased in 1941. In 1946 it continued as Fishkeeping and Water Life. The catalogue shows the last issue as 1957 but it was in fact December 1958. Sometime, and I suspect in 1946, the publisher changed.

This magazine was clearly an important supplier of information to amateur herpetologists in the 1930s. Although I do not yet have all the information I would like, I do have sufficient to make a start and to show something of the content of the magazine.

So, it’s back to the beginning. The original publishers and printers were The Marshall Press with their works in Milford Lane off The Strand in London. I have not been able to find much about the activities of The Marshall Press but I have found they produced books on cage birds, gardening and small-holding, type faces, biography and religion. On the latter, that by Alexander James Ferris, When Russia Bombs Germany, with the 5th edition published in 1942, claims that the events of the Second World War were foretold in the bible. It is good to know that little matter has been cleared up. However, Wikipedia says that this work sold over 60,000 copies and was very popular amongst those of the christian persuasion. However, George Orwell reviewed the book and considered Ferris to be a ‘religio-patriotic lunatic’. Well, there’s a surprise. However, I digress.

The Marshall Press was liquidated in 1961.

Marshall Press published Water Life every week. I repeat, every week. That must have been quite a job even if each issue comprised only 8-14 pages. Who edited the magazine and who wrote for it I shall consider in the next post.

Incidentally, I am posting this and the more general articles on Water Life in two blogs. There will be some downloads of articles on herpetology available later. They will only be on this site. Because Water Life must have had a considerable influence of aspiring young biologists in the 1930s and later, the more general posts will also be shown on my general meanderings in zoology and epi-zoology, Zoology Jottings.

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