The Aquarist and Pondkeeper: Herpetological Coverage in the 1950s

Herpetological articles from most issues of the Aquarist are now available from the Download Page in two extracts: 1951-57 (volumes 16-21) and 1957-60 (volumes 22-24). I am missing a few issues but the reader of this blog will be able to see the extent of knowledge and interest in reptiles and amphibians at this time.

As you will see, the early and mid-1950s was a very lean time for herpetologists reading the Aquarist. There were very few articles between 1951 and 1957. Dr Edward Elkan appears, describing pathological studies for which he remains well known, as well as writing one article on keeping what is now the Hong Kong Newt and another on lungless salamanders. Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson discussed culture methods for live food. Research on the nutritional requirements of Xenopus done by Hilda Bruce and Sir Alan Parkes at Cambridge is reported. The death of Jack Lester, Curator of Reptiles at London Zoo, after his participation in a BBC Zoo Quest expedition with David Attenborough, is also reported. I have included a number of the advertisements which show what animals were being imported into UK.

The Editor throughout the 1960s was Anthony Evans, the author of a book on goldfish.

However, in the late 1950s there was more to interest herpetologists—lots more. Robert Bustard had a series of articles on keeping reptiles and amphibians; a John Walker wrote on toads and frogs and Richard Guppy from British Columbia (who I think was known for entomology) had an excellent article on keeping terrapins.

By the time I became interested, in 1958, Bob Bustard’s articles (still highly regarded by those of us who remember them) were appearing fairly regularly and I would go to the only shop I knew in Nottingham that stocked the Aquarist to see if there was anything of herpetological interest in that month’s issue; only if there was would I buy it. After all, frothy coffee in a new-fangled coffee bar (was it called the El Toreador?) was a few doors away. One issue of the Aquarist (1/6d, later 2/-) would buy a lot of coffee.

By the end of 1958, the Aquarist was the only magazine around. Water Life, by then Fishkeeping and Water Life, ended then. The Aquarist of January 1959 carried the following in an editorial:

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Bob Bustard had previously written for Fishkeeping and Water Life, so the Aquarist must have gained sales to those interested in reptiles and amphibians, even though fish keeping predominated.

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