Vevers, Gwynne

Animals of the Arctic

  • First edition, first impression. A superb copy of this gorgeously illustrated children's book on Arctic wildlife by the fascinating British biologist, broadcaster, author, and intelligence agent Gwynne Vevers (1916-1988). This copy bears two examples of the dust jacket, the lower one of which is in unusually fresh and attractive condition.

    Vevers began his biology career as an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford, travelling to Greenland and the Faroe Islands with the Oxford University Exploration Club. It was in the Arctic that he also began his intelligence career by reporting on German activity in the region. "From 1940 Vevers carried out wartime intelligence work for the RAF. He used aerial reconnaissance of the ice floes to determine the deep-water channels. When the German battleship Bismarck broke out of Bergen Fjord in May 1941 and sank HMS Hood off Iceland, Vevers predicted her position from his charts, and she was intercepted and sunk off Brest. For his work he was made a military MBE. He switched in 1943 to the Air Ministry, where with another zoologist, Wing Commander Frederick S. Russell, he assessed and distributed ‘Ultra’ ciphers after the British broke the encryptions of the German coding device Enigma. Towards the war's end he was in Germany, hunting down Reichsminister Rust, who committed suicide a few hours before Vevers caught up with him" (ODNB).

    After the war, Vevers worked at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Plymouth, where he developed an early type of underwater camera. In 1955 he joined the staff of the London Zoo Aquarium, where as curator he "introduced several novel exhibits, including the spectacular sea urchin Diadema" (ODNB). He was member and administrator of the Zoological Society, the Linnean Society, the Biological Council, the Marine Biological Association, and a trustee of the Savile Club.

    In addition to his academic work, Vevers was a n important science populariser. Beginning in 1954 he published nearly one hundred books, most for the general public, and became famous as a children's author. Vevers was "the perfect raconteur and this, with his interest in photography and sea life, made him an ideal natural-history presenter for the BBC unit in Bristol, which began its outside broadcasts in the early 1950s. He served on the science selection committee of the National Film Archive for over thirty years, and he appeared on Desmond Morris's Zoo Time. Vevers himself preferred the radio, and became a familiar wireless voice to the post-war generation" (ODNB).

  • London: The Bodley Head, 1964. Oblong quarto. Original pictorial boards, blue and white illustrated endpapers. With two examples of the dust jacket. Just a little minor rubbing at the extremities of the boards, short pencil mark to upper board. An unusually fresh and attractive copy in two examples of the dust jacket, both of which are price-clipped, the lower copy being in beautiful condition and the upper copy with some light toning and rubbing. Overall a superb copy in excellent condition.

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