Open-Air Nature Books

Dent & Sons Ltd. (London, UK)
Series dates: 1909-1951
Size: 5″ x 7″

W. Percival Westell was a well-known popularizer of British natural history in the first half of the twentieth century. Dent’s Open-Air Nature Books comprised a series of titles edited by Westell and Henry Turner (General Secretary of the School Nature Study Union) aimed at younger readers (but not necessarily only a juvenile series). The series titles appear in 1909 and are reprinted until about 1951, with at least 14 titles included in the series. Reprint titles by other authors were added beginning around 1930. A similarly-named Dent series, the Open-Air Library, was published from 1932-1947 and consisted of reprints of environmental classics.


The initial six books in the series were all authored by Westell and Turner, were numbered and also appeared bound together in a single volume called The Open Air Nature Book (first available in 1909) and later as a two-volume set (three titles each, first available in 1919). A seventh title, The Seashore I Know, was added in 1913. Seven additional titles were added between 1932 and 1940 all of which were reprints.

The Hedge I Know, W.P. Westell & H. Turner (#1, 1909)
The Pond I Know, W.P. Westell & H. Turner (#2, 1909)
The Wood I Know, W.P. Westell & H. Turner (#3, 1909)
The Meadow I Know, W.P. Westell & H. Turner (#4, 1909)
The Stream I Know, W.P. Westell & H. Turner (#5, 1909)
The Common I Know, W.P. Westell & H. Turner (#6, 1909)
The Seashore I Know, W.P. Westell & H. Turner (1913)
Nature in the Downland & Old Thorn, W.H. Hudson (1932)
Afoot in England, W.H. Hudson (1933)
Out-of-Doors with Richard Jeffries (1935)
Life of a Scottish Naturalist, T. Edward (1936)
The Out of Doors Book, A. Stanley (1937)
The Lake Counties, W.G. Collingwood (1938)
Rural Rides, W. Cobbett (1940)

Jackets are common to the series early on, but begin to include a unique color illustration on the jacket front in the 1930s. This 1924 copy of The Pond I Know has the older, common jacket style. The series name is included at the top of the jacket front. The front flap is blank.


The back of the jacket includes advertisements for the first six titles, the numbered books in the series. The books are available individually (1s./6d.), as a two-volume set (with #1, #2, #3 in a volume and #4, #5, #6 in a volume) for 4s./6d., and all six books in one volume for 7s./6d. A description of books and some reviews are also included. The rear flap advertises additional related Dent titles.


This copy of the book has an attractive color binding. The design of these bindings vary over time and at different times have a design shared by all the books.


A half-title page:


A color illustration faces the title page. The date (1924) is included on the title page.


The copyright page includes printing information.