Zoo guides: 1879, 1911 & 1923

Zoos have long offered guides to their resident animals. My library now includes 3 early guides to zoos that once counted the California condor among their residents. Here is a look.

Nearly 150 years ago, the guide to the zoo in London was a nearly 600 page book:
01 Anon 1879a
As the title suggests, this was more of an inventory than a guide in the modern sense. At the time, the original vernacular name, Californian vulture, was still in general use:
01 Anon 1879b
This captive condor had lived in London for 13 years by the time this guide was published.

The guide also includes a not-very-good likeness of the condor:
01 Anon 1879c

The guide to what we today call the Bronx Zoo was once published in a series of editions named after animals. The “spectacled bear edition” appeared over a century ago:
02 Hornaday 1911a
The text concerning the California condor is blunt:
02 Hornaday 1911b
This New York guide includes an excellent photograph of a condor:
02 Hornaday 1911c

The 2nd edition of the guide to the zoo in Washington, D.C. was published nearly a century ago:
03 Anon 1923a
This guide also includes a photograph and the text is similar to that of the New York guide:
03 Anon 1923b

The zoo guides for New York and Washington, D.C. clearly demonstrate that concern for endangered species and the threats they face is nothing new. At least in the case of the California condor, the predictions of their demise have not come to pass. Of course, that’s only because of the painstaking (and expensive) recovery work that has been done at zoos.


List of the vertebrated animals now or lately living in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London. 7th edition. Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer. 1879.

Hornaday, William T. Popular official guide to the New York Zoological Park. 11th edition. New York Zoological Society. 1911.

Popular guide: National Zoological Park. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Institution. 1923.