View Full Version : Three good books
American author / editor David Wescott has put together three books in the last year or two which probably should be better known in the bushcraft world than they are. "Camping in the Old Style" is perhaps the least pertinent, although possibly my favourite, being a compilation of snippets from very old camping texts. Some good advice, and a few now questionable odds and ends, but mostly this is surprisingly in tune with modern bushcraft thinking and has a certain charm as nostalgia too. Hard to find, but I noticed yesterday that Waterstone's on Deansgate in Manchester still had a couple of copies.
"Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills" and "Primitive Technology II: Ancestral Skills" compile the newsletters of the Society of Primitive Technology, and if you're looking for information on firemaking and modern recreations of traditional and primitive crafts and skills then you'll find much to lose yourself in here. All are oversized paperbacks, printed on a rather pulpy stock which unfortunately doesn't help the illustrations. Amazon should have the two "Primitive Technology" books.
Right, back to the bookshelf.
Thanks for that bigjack :biggthump
Browsing amazon I came across a rave customer review of an old bushcraft title written by Richard Graves "Bushcraft : Serious Guide to Survival and Camping". Now out of print, last published in paperback in 1978.
"This is definitely the most all inclusive book on the subject I have ever read. It puts many of the " survival" and "SAS" books to shame. This encyclopedic outdoors manual includes all the standard subjects as you find repeated ad infinitum in all the other texts but with much more depth and ingenuity. Particularly in depth are the topics of cordage ( with photos to prove his claims), snares and traps, bivouacs and thatching, how to read aerial photos, and the sun-compass/sun-clock ( in all of these subjects Mr Graves appears to have practical expertise far outreaching the authors of most of the other books on the subject )
It is a crying shame that this book is not re-issued although the sales of all the other so called survival texts would plummet if it were to be.
Overall THE best book on the subject"
It may be Australian. Anyone ever read it ?
I've never read them, but I believe that the Bushcraft series was actually several books by Richard Graves from the middle of the last century, and they were Australian.
It sounds as though the review you mentioned covers one title, so presumably that would be an American omnibus edition. I'll look into it.
Thanks Jack, you're a gentleman :biggthump
A quick bit of hunting turned up a few things on the Graves books. Here's a snippet from a seller offering some of the titles on Abebooks:
"The Bushcraft Handbooks: Firemaking. Sydney: Dymock's Book Arcade Ltd. First Edition. circa 1940's. One in a series of Bushcraft Handbooks by Richard H Graves who was a Commanding Officer of the Austrlian Jungle Survival & Rescue Detachment on Active Service with American Air Force."
There appear to have been ten books in the complete series, which were collected and reissued more than once as a single volume. However, I have not been able to find out whether the single volume contains the complete text of the individual booklets. The most recent version was in the early nineties, and it does indeed appear to be out of print. This last was under the title "Australian Bushcraft : A Guide to Survival and Camping," and while it does appear to be the same guide from the few descriptions I could find I can't be absolutely sure. Several book search engines list sellers for Graves' work, although the individual booklets appear to be more common than the collected volume. Prices for the single volume run as high as $75, and that's US not Australian!
Thanks for the pointer on this one, Alick. These are books I knew very little about, but I have been building a modest collection of books on camping and survival for a few years and I always like to find titles I had forgotten or overlooked.
Bushcraft does contain the whole of the contents of the previous 10 booklets.I agree it is a brilliant book.I tried to find copy on the web and found the sort of prices you mention.Then i mentioed it in my loal bookshop and they did a search on a website limited to booksellers only .They found a copy in the states for £20 .It arrived about 5 days later and was in excellent condition.A friend saw it and tried his local bokshop and they got a copy from Australia for £30,again in excellent condition
Hope this helps.
Try searching through www. bookfinder.com I've just bought a copy I found on their data base for £14.75+pp. There are 2 or 3 other copies for sale on the same site.
I found this title in a used bookstore. Author is Stefan A.Szczelkun, printed in 1973 by Shocken books USA. I think it is a british title, the spelling is G.B.not american but the many references are from both nations. This is one of those Mother Earth style books from that period. The photos and illustrations are fun, some of the ideas either outdated or sheer whimsy. Still, like most texts there are treasures in the raw ore. Has anyone encountered this title ? Were there others?
I bought a copy of this book for about £5 back in the eighties from Rucksack & Rifle of Wrexham (good shop, shame about the politics!!). Superb book, simple well thaught out. Team this with Kochanskis book of the same name and you will never need to buy another survival book in your life.
This link should take you to Amazon's page on a very good book on American woodcraft at the end of the nineteenth century.
Although written in the 1920s, a lot of it is still relevant today. I was particularly impressed with the small amount of kit Nessmuk carried.
nessmuks book is fantastic, there's not an absolutely massive amount of detailed info to be had in some respects. but an inspiring book none the less. i have no idea how many times i've read it.
if there's only one old timey book in your collection, this should be it! i put it in front of jj rowlins cache lake even.
"i put it in front of jj rowlins cache lake even."
Gasp! Well, perhaps I'd rate them about even, since Nessmuk's book is a cracking read in its own right.
If I had to recommend just one book (although technically it consisted originally of two volumes) then Horace Kephart's "Camping & Woodcraft" would be it. Kephart's masterwork has been mentioned many times on this forum and it really does deliver the goods. The best thing about it to the modern reader might well be the science and research behind so much of what he says. There are real facts and figures, details on nutrition (admittedly a science in its infancy back then, just a few years after Scott died of malnutrition and scurvy at the Pole) and good, tested advice. There are personal preferences there too, and time has changed the view of some matters, but I still rank it the single most useful woodcraft book written. Interestingly, it is dedicated "TO THE SHADE OF NESSMUK IN THE HAPPY HUNTING GROUND."
Nessmuk was an entertaining writer and quite a character, but much as I cherish his book I don't think it has the universal appeal of Kephart. Too much of Nessmuk was old hat even by the time that "Camping & Woodcraft" came out (and here I cite his fly-repellent, basically a coat of brown varnish for the skin, as evidence) and more was very individual to Sears (Nessmuk) himself. The famous canoe, for example, was an ultra-light marvel, but if I tried to paddle it then it would sink. Nessmuk was a very small man, on top of which he carried so little because he lived in an age when a man still went into the woods expecting to hunt in order to fill the pot.
All irrelevant really, however, because in my opinion every shelf should have the two books side by side, and "Cache Lake" close by. On dark autumn nights when the weather is closed in and other commitments keep one indoors, all three books are wonderful reminders of the joys awaiting us back in the woods.