National Geographic's Collectors Corner

Collaborative site for collectors, dealers, & anyone interested in our history.

Listed below are sources of published information on NGS history and related people and topics.

Abercrombie, Thomas J. & Lynn B., Traveling the World for National Geographic, Birch Landing Press, 2011.

Abramson, Howard S., National Geographic: Behind America's Lens on the World, New York: Crown Publishers, 1987.
An outsider's look at NGS. Not always accurate in the details, indeed some rather outrageous claims are made by Abramson. This is not an un-biased account and should be used with caution as well as corroboration.

Bruce, Robert V., Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude, Boston: Little Brown, 1973.
Excellent biography of Bell, usually considered the standard source.

Bryan, C. D. B., The National Geographic Society: 100 years of Adventure and Discovery, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1987 (revised 1997).
Sometimes referred to as the "Centennial book," as the Society authorized the outside writing and publication for the Society's centennial celebration. A good reference for many periods of NGS history, particularly pre-WWII. Many events and people are left out or not adequately covered. The index is rather incomplete, and may not always prove helpful.

Buxbaum, Edwin C. Collector's Guide to the National Geographic Magazine. c. 1962, revised, 1971, Wilmington, DE.
Well illustrated history and bibliography.

Canby, Thomas Y., From Botswana to the Bering Sea: My Thirty Years with National Geographic, Washington DC, Island Press, 1998.
This is the memoir of a retired science editor. It provides background on the coverage of a variety of science articles and some general NGS history from the perspective of 1960-1990, as well as descriptions of the workings of the editorial and research processes.

Collins, Jane L. and Catherine A. Lutz, Reading National Geographic, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
Another outside view of NGS, it is an academic treatment of the Society and NGS photography. Focus is on 1950's to the 1990's and the perspective is that of a sociologist and anthropologists' view and interpretation of the cultural impact of NGS photography. Contains some fresh and compelling notions about NGS, but has too many (some glaring) inaccuracies. Use with caution and corroboration.

Grosvenor, Edwin S. and Morgan Weeson, Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man who Invented the Telephone, New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1998.
Well-researched and highly readable, this book is a detailed look at the personal and professional sides of Bell's life. It is richly illustrated and a valuable source for Bell information.

Jenkins, Mark, National Geographic 125 years : legendary photographs, adventures, and discoveries that changed the world, 2013

Jenkins, Mark, On assignment with National Geographic : the inside story of legendary explorers, photographers, and adventurers, 2013.

Jenkins, Mark, High Adventure: The Story of the National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., NGS, 2003.
Written by staff archivist and historian, Mark Jenkins, this work provides an excellent overview of Society history.

Jenkins, Mark, ed. Worlds to Explore: Classic Tales Travel & Adventure from National Geographic, Washington, D.C., NGS, 2006.Introduced by brief essays that provide context and perspective, these excerpts trace the Society's growth as it explored the unknown. Library Journal's review: "These stories are like potato chips; one is never enough, and they're all but impossible not to devour in rapid succession. Moreover, they lend themselves to repeat reading..."

Nathan, Roger E. Collectibles of the National Geographic Society. c. 1982 by the author. Serendipity Press, Wilmington, DE.

National Geographic Index 1888-1988 (also known as the Centennial Index)
This is an excellent 100-year history of NGS, featuring the important figures in NGS history with a complete list of NGS Research Grants to 1988.

National Geographic Magazine - September 1988
A number of excellent articles cover various aspects of Society history including art and photography profiles, biographical profiles, and cartoons spoofing the Geographic.

Patterson, Carolyn Bennett, Of Lands, Legends, & Laughter: The Search for Adventure with National Geographic, Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Press, 1998.
This is the memoir of the first woman senior editor of the NGM, with colorful anecdotes, stories, with some NGS history.

Poole, Robert M., Explorers House: National Geographic and the World It Made, New York, Penguin, 2004. History of the Society, and the family that led the way, by a former executive editor of the magazine.

Schulten, Susan, The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880-1950, Chicago and London: Universtiy of Chicago Press, 2001.
An academic book, but contains many important and interesting ideas and interpretations regarding the role and nature of influence of the NGM (and particularly maps) on American culture and identity.

Also of interest:
McCarry; Charles, ed. From the Field : A collection of writings from National Geographic. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1997.

Vesilind, Priit. National Geographic on Assignment USA. Washington, D.C: National Geographic Society, 1997.

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Good stuff; is this an all inclusive reference on the NGS?,Abramson book was a most interesting read......Andy

This is not an all-inclusive list by any means. This is a short list we compiled merely as good background reading for those here at NGS who might need more historical information on the Society. Thanks, Cathy Hunter

Yes very interesting list, and I agree with the brief comments. Truly, the Robert M. Poole book was highly readable, and a very good appraisal of the behind-the-scenes workings at N.G.S. Of course there were a many great changes (and painful ones at that) from the 1992 period and onward, and some insiders and executives may not like to face that sort of thing - in print.

If the LIS staff can, I think it is VERY important to include Edwin Buxbaum's Magazine Reference books he did - especially his last revision, 1971.

- Scott T. Shier
Hi Scott,

Karen, our technical whiz, is going to add Buxbaum to the list, and I'll ask her to add Roger Nathan's book as well. Many thanks, Cathy
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