“The Knowledge is free, just bring the container to keep it in“.
This saying hangs in the library of my wife’s primary school and goodness does that sum up what a library is. Since writing was first introduced into this country people have gone to the trouble to write about their passions, experiences and knowledge in order to share it with anyone else who takes the time to read about them. At one time if you wanted to find anything out the first port of call was a book, today things a different with the arrival of the internet. I must admit it was not that long ago if I needed to find any general information it was to an encyclopaedia or dictionary that I went for help, today it’s straight on to Google or Wikipedia. Having said that there is nothing more satisfying than having an extensive library sat behind one’s shoulder, it seems to give a sense of reassurance that whatever you want to know is waiting on some page – the secret is knowing in which book. Recently a group of us had a discussion as to what books should be on the shelves of a Dartmoor enthusiast which prompted this particular web page.
The nice thing about any book collection is that it can never be instant, unless you have unlimited cash resources it takes years to build up. This will involve delving around numerous dusty shelves of second-hand book shops, markets, car boot sales, internet sites and numerous other such places. Gradually these searches will turn up what you are looking for but as the collection grows it becomes harder and harder to find those elusive books which tend to be the early works on the subject. At this stage the actual cost of the books takes a dramatic rise as the rarer books are much more expensive than the more commoner ones. This is where your personal financial restraints will come into conflict with the passion for your particular subject. Although a particular book would be a great addition to your library can you really afford the £100 asking price and sadly at this point most of us have to say no. On the brighter side, as long as you keep looking that book may well turn up years later at half the price, I suppose, “patience is a virtue…”.
When I first began walking Dartmoor I would often encounter numerous ‘mysteries’ on those excursions and my natural curiosity wanted to know what, why, when, how, etc. So I grew into the habit of first doing a walk and then reading up about it afterwards in order to answer all the questions that arose from the day. This was the precursor to building a Dartmoor library of my own. I know I could have simply visited the local library and read the books there but when reading or writing I like to be on my own in total silence and that is impossible in a public library. In addition the opening hours of public libraries do not cater for the working person as they are usually shut of an evening and Saturday’s are for walking the moor. Anyway, if you are wanting to learn about Dartmoor or you are conversant with it but need to do the occasional research what books should you try to get in your collection? The following is a personal view and is how I went about learning about the moor, obviously new books are arriving in the shops all the time so any ‘shopping list’ will always be out of date. I have split the books into three sections; essential, useful and collectable and all of these will be budget dependent. When looking at my book collection it’s easy to see what books fall into which category, the essential ones are looking well thumbed and sit just to the right of my computer, the useful ones look slightly newer and sit to the left of the computer and all the rest are on shelves behind the computer. In each of these categories I have listed my top 21 as to go any further would involve hundreds of titles. Obviously the price depends on how much you have to spend but I have listed the cheapest ones I could find on the Abebooks, Amazon and E Bay websites.
ESSENTIALS – These are what could be described as the ‘bibles’ for any student of Dartmoor and thankfully, apart from one, won’t invite a visit to the bank manager. They mostly were written by topographical writers between the mid 1800s and the late 1900s and in general can be found without too much difficulty. I would expect to consult these books several times a week for various researches on this website.
1) William Crossing – 1965 – Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor (£5.00)
2) Eric Hemery – 1992 – High Dartmoor (£55)
3) R. Hansford Worth – 1971 Worth’s Dartmoor (£10)
4) Samuel Rowe – 1985 A Perambulation of Dartmoor (£12.50) *free to download on Google Books
5) John Lloyd Warden Page – 1889 An Exploration of Dartmoor (£10)
6) Dave Brewer – 2002 Dartmoor Boundary Markers (£9)
7) Jeremy Butler – 1991 – Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol.1 (£120 ?)
8) Jeremy Butler – 1991 – Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol.2 (£8)
9) Jeremy Butler – 1994 – Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol.3 (£6.99)
10) Jeremy Butler – 1993 – Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol.4 (£8.)
11) Jeremy Butler – 1997 – Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities – Vol.5 (£8)
12) Mike Brown – 1995 The Gazetteer of Dartmoor Names (£3.95)
13) Peter Hamilton-Leggett – 1992 The Dartmoor Bibliography (£25)
14) Sandy Gerrard – 1997 – Dartmoor (£24.33)
15) A. K. Hamilton-Jenkin – 2005 The Mines of Devon (£13.19)
16) Stephen Woods – 2003 The Dartmoor Farm (£15.05)
17) Elisabeth Stanbrook 1994 Dartmoor Forest Farms (None Available ?)
18) William Crossing – 1987 The Ancient Stone Crosses of Dartmoor (£20)
19) William Crossing – 1992 The Dartmoor Worker (£10)
20) Ruth St. Leger Gordon – 1983 The Witchcraft and Folklore of Dartmoor (£5.31)
21) Helen Harris – 1992 – The Industrial Archaeology of Dartmoor (£22)
So for the grand sum of around £280 (excluding the two pricing anomalies) this book collection would cover virtually every aspect of Dartmoor in quite some depth and over a time span of around 150 years.
USEFUL – The following books will enhance the essential books with further information on many topics, I would expect to consult these books several times a month for various researches on this website.
1) Eric Hemery – 1986 Walking Dartmoor’s Ancient Tracks (£6)
2) William Crossing – 1987 – Gems in a Granite Setting (£18)
3) William Crossing – 1967 – One Hundred Years on Dartmoor (£4.50)
4) William Crossing – 1997 – Folklore and Legends of Dartmoor (£4.16)
5) John Robbins – 1984 – Follow the Leat (£2.49)
6) Roger Smaldon – 2005 – The Birds of Dartmoor (£20.94)
7) Eric Hemery – 1983 – Walking Dartmoor’s Railroads (£4)
8) Eric Hemery – 1986 – Walking Dartmoor’s Waterways (£5.20)
9) Andrew Fleming – 1988 The Dartmoor Reaves (£14.99)
10) Crispin Gill (ed.) 1979 – Dartmoor: A New Study (£1)
11) Sabine Baring Gould – 1982 – A Book of Dartmoor (£10)
12) Rev. Hugh Breton – 1990 – Beautiful Dartmoor (£8)
13) Paul Petit – 1974 – Prehistoric Dartmoor (£4)
14) Robert Burnard – 1986 – Dartmoor Pictorial Records (£28)
15) D. St. Leger Gordon – 1973 – Under Dartmoor Hills (£4)
16) D. St. Leger Gordon – 1962 – Dartmoor (£4)
17) Rev. Hugh Breton – 1990 – The Forest of Dartmoor (£6)
18) Transactions of the Devonshire Association – Too Numerous Editions to List (varies as to date)
19) The Dartmoor News – Too Numerous Editions to List (varies as to date)
20) The Dartmoor Magazine – Too Numerous Editions to List (varies as to date)
21) Mike Brown’s Dartmoor Field Guides – Too Numerous Editions to List (varies as to date)
COLLECTABLE – These are books that will make up any book collection on Dartmoor. I would expect to consult these books when looking for specific topics which would be several times a year.
1) Mrs Bray 2007 On the Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy (£19.49) *free to download on Google Books
2) William Crossing – 1994 – Echoes of an Ancient Forest (£9)
3) William Crossing – 1974 – Amid Devonia’s Alps (£8.99)
4) William Crossing – 1994 – The Land of Tor and Stream (£12.04)
5) William Crossing – 1987 – Dartmoor’s Early Historic and Medieval Remains (£3)
6) William Crossing – 1987 – Stones of Dartmoor (£9)
7) William Crossing – 19 – The Teign: From Moor to Sea (not available)
8) William Crossing – 1968 – Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies (£8)
9) William Crossing – 1905 – From a Dartmoor Cott (£30)
10) William Crossing – 1989 – Princetown: Its Rise and Progress (£10)
11) George Thurlow – 1993 – Thurlow’s Dartmoor Companion (£10)
12) Mary Stanbrook 1991 – Old Dartmoor Schools Remembered (£10)
13) Patricia Milton 2006 The Discovery of Dartmoor (£18.99)
14) Brian le Messurier 2002 Dartmoor Artists (£15.53)
15) Todd Gray 2001 Dartmoor Engraved (£26.99)
16) Stephen Woods 1988 Dartmoor Stone (£12)
17) D. St. Leger Gordon – 1976 – Dartmoor in all It’s Moods (£4.25)
18) E. W. Martin – 1958 – Dartmoor (£2.64)
19) Vian Smith – 1972 – A Portrait of Dartmoor (£1.91)
20) John Swete – 2000 Travels in Georgian Devon, Vol. 4 (£47.50)
21) John Morris (ed.) 1985 The Domesday Book: Devon (£17.95)
For further suggestions on the legends, superstitions and folklore of Dartmoor see – Reading List
And last but definately not least:
Tim Sandles – 1997 – A Pilgrimage to Dartmoor’s Crosses (£10) – if I can’t plug it here where can I !
WISH LIST – These are the books mentioned above that cause me a great deal of anguish, I would dearly love them for my library but the price makes me go, “ouch”, in one case, “mumping Hell”.
William Crossing – 1926 – Cranmere: The Legendary Story of Binjje Gear and Other Poems (£45)
William Crossing – 1911 – Folk Rhymes of Devon (£50)
Rachel Evans – 1875 Home Scenes or Tavistock and its Vicinity (£80)
Richard John King – 1856 – The Forest of Dartmoor (£85)
Rev. Richard Polwhele – 1793/7 The History of Devonshire (£380)
Elias Tozer – 1873 – Devonshire and Other Original Poems – (£37)
The above list does not include the numerous ‘specialist’ books on Dartmoor such as village histories, railways, the excellent Halsgrove heritage series etc. It also does not contain any guide books or walk books because the best way to discover Dartmoor is for yourself. Sit down with the OS map, look at the place-names and topography, see what grabs your imagination and then go and explore for yourself.
One last word on where to find Dartmoor books, it seems to me that in Britain the further you go from Dartmoor the cheaper the prices become which I suppose when you think about it is fairly logical. There will be less people interested and actively looking for Dartmoor books in Scotland than there will be in Devon so the demand will be less. But no matter where you go, if time allows take a look around any second-hand book shop, market stall or car boot sale, you never know what will turn up. There are then the internet auction sites, Dartmoor books are always turning up on these and often at reasonable prices, failing that there are always the online second-hand or used book sites. The best I have found are Abebooks and Amazon all of which will save time searching through individual sites. It is always worth having a periodical look on the Google Books website, if you search the, “full books” section you often find downloadable copies of the early books and the best thing is that at the moment they are free.