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100 Years Ago: May 1918 (with page number anomaly)

This is the fortieth installment in my series of brief reviews of National Geographic Magazines that are reaching the centennial of their publication.

As you can see from the cover, the first item listed is the “National Geographic Society Map of the Western Theatre of War”. The cover goes on to state, “Presenting a Complete and Authoritative Survey of All Places, Forests, and River Systems Figuring in the Press Dispatches from Western Front”. It also lists the maps size as 27 x 31¼ inches, and its scale as 7¼ miles to an inch.

Image Courtesy of Philip Riviere.

The map is “tipped in”, attached to the inside front cover. It is a black and blue on white sketch map. Towns, main roads, and borders are in black; while rivers and oceans are in blue. The printing on the map is extremely small, but sharp and very legible. Also, in black are grid lines, each ten miles apart making squares that are 100 square miles in size. This grid is labeled A through W across the top and bottom of the map, while being labeled 1 through 19 down the sides.

I must note that this isn’t the first map published with a letter/number grid. The October 1906 issue had a “tipped in” map of Cuba. That map used the grid information for an index printed on the back of the map.

The article, if you can call it that, is a one-page description of the map on page 494, the last page of the issue. It has the simplified heading, The National Geographic War-Zone Map. The article describes the making of this map by condensing maps from the French and Belgian Departments of War. These maps were over 27 square feet in size. The information was condensed into a map just over five square feet without destroying its legibility.

The article goes on to mention that “for those who want to study the map in detail an index has been prepared”. A copy of the index can be purchased for 25 cents. Additional copies of the map can be obtained for 75 cents (including index). A special edition, linen-back map paper version is available for $1.50 (again including index).

Image Courtesy of John Carey.

The Index is the first in a series of around 100 individual map indices produced by the National Geographic Society for their magazine’s map supplements throughout most of the 20th century. (I would so like to get my hands on one of these babies.)

The second, and last, item listed on the cover is entitled “Smaller North American Mammals”. It was written by Edward W. Nelson and is the companion field guide to the November 1916 issue’s field guide entitled “Larger North American Mammals”. It has the subtitle “An Intimate Study of the Smaller Wild Animals of North America by the Foremost Authorities”. It is comprised of a short article, a comprehensive set of descriptions with “32 Pages in Full Colors” drawn by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and an index linking the drawings to the description.

The article has a one-paragraph, italicized introduction. Besides mentioning the sister guide for larger mammals, it also credits Ernest Thompson Seton as the illustrator of the below-mentioned animal track drawings.

The article itself is a brief introduction to the field guide and contains eight black-and-white photographs. There is one additional black-and-white photograph embedded in, and near the beginning of, the set of descriptions. None of these photos are full-page in size.

It describes the many profound modifications to each species over time to adapt to their environments; and the far more numerous, modern, and superficial changes known as geographic variations. It mentions the three main groups of small mammals classified by their food habits: Rodents, or gnawing animals; carnivores, or flesh eaters; and insectivores, or insect eaters. The balance between predator and prey is discussed, as are the social aspects of both the hunters and the hunted.

The main body of the field guide, the set of descriptions, makes up the bulk on this issue. Each description starts with the animal’s name followed by its Latin name (i.e. genus and species). These are followed by a detailed description of the animal’s range, habits, diet, and other interesting facts. Twenty black-and-white drawings of animal tracks are embedded throughout the descriptions.

Also embedded within the descriptions are the thirty-two pages of color drawings by Fuertes. Of those drawings, five are full-page in size. The remaining twenty-seven pages contain two drawings each. This gives a total of fifty-nine full-color drawings. These pages come in pairs having the drawings face-to-face with only one side of the paper containing the drawings. This leads to a two-page on/two-page off arrangement alternating between drawings and descriptions. This was probably done due to the fact that the color pages required more lead time and were printed first. Normally, this is perfectly fine but this time it led to the problem I’ll discuss at the end of this review.

The bottom half of the last page of this field guide is an index. This index contains the animal names, the page numbers for their associated descriptions and drawings, and, if applicable, the page number of the associated sketches of animal tracks.

And now for the promised page number anomaly. With the color pages being printed before the rest of the magazine, they needed the page numbers to print for each one. Their mock layout of the magazine had the page numbers starting at 371. Since the last page of the April 1918 issue of National Geographic was 390, the first page of this issue should have been numbered 391. Because it would have been cost prohibitive to redo the color pages, the editors decided to print the issue with the twenty duplicate pages. They merely added an asterisks (*) to pages 372* through 390*. (Note: Page 371* is the first page of the issue so does not have the page number printed on it.)

This situation led to some interesting entries in the indexes that reference this issue. Both of the cumulative indices that cover this issue (1888-1946 and 1888-1988) correctly list the field guide as being pages 371*- 493 inclusive. The last two articles of the April 1918 issue are listed as been pages 369-375 and 375-390.

The volume index referencing this issue (Volume XXXIII) also lists 371* for the start of the field guide in the Table of Contents, and 375 for the starting page in the TOC for the last article in the April 1918 issue. It also makes numerous reference in the Index proper to many pages within the field guide with the first twenty pages being referenced with an asterisk. Likewise, references to the last two articles from the April 1918 are numbered from 369 through 390 without asterisks. The volume index also lists the Western Theater of War map as being on page 371* since it is located before that page (and several pages of advertisement).

Tom Wilson

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Love it!

Map details along with the index and page anomalies are all very interesting.

On to the next one...


Thanks for the page anomaly information. 


Nov. 1916 and this issue are 2 of my most favorite issues of NGM ever . . . and combined, they later became the early book, "Wildlife of North America" (several editions).

Tom, also, by way of being a good place to mention it, I passed up the chance to get a nice copy of this War Theatre map index for $10 . . . because, I was then-trying to limit (harness) the scope of my collecting parameters, and didn't want to get into "those silly map indices". Tsk. I have kicked myself ever since!



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