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Copyright Office, What We're Reading

Claire Tatro is an intern this summer with the Copyright Office here at Michigan Publishing. Claire is a student at the University of Michigan School of Information (M.A. 2014). She is working on a series of highlights about books in the public domain in HathiTrust.

My Strange Pets (1905)
If you leave your vent open in the winter, your monkeys will freeze.  This was a hard lesson learned by Mr. Richard Bell while caring for tropical monkeys in the frigid temperatures of Scotland.  Back in the early 1900’s, the concepts of animal cruelty and care were very different from what we believe today.  Bell owned a menagerie of exotic animals and although he was genuinely concerned with their welfare, much of his knowledge was gained through trial and error that by today’s standards might seem like animal cruelty.  My Strange Pets and Other Memories of Country Life is a record of Bell’s experiences that you can read online at the HathiTrust Digital Library (

From rheas to vipers, Bell collected a menagerie of animals from all over the world.  As an avid amateur scientist, he studied and wrote about caring for his animals.  He and his fellow animal enthusiasts were pioneers in animal care but engaged in some practices that seem shocking by today’s standards. Yet, this was the forefront of zoo keeping in the 1900’s.  In the passion of collecting bears, lions, and anacondas these men were often bit, scratched, attacked, and in one extreme case, like Thomas Maccarte’s, killed.

In Bell’s lifetime, society was not as concerned with endangered and extinct species.  Today, many of the animals Bell owned are considered near-threatened, vulnerable, and in some cases, like the yellow-crested cockatoo, even critically endangeredLaws have evolved out of this time period pertaining to animal collecting, treatment and care.

In addition to My Strange Pets and Other Memories of Country Life, Bell’s scientific interests led him to author a few articles for the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society.  In these articles you can learn more about emu and ostrich farming, read his bird notes of Eskdale, and explore the archaeology of forts and their connecting trenches.

Bell’s book might be of interest to historians examining menageries and animal collecting, sociologists searching for the lifestyles of the wealthy in Scotland during the 19th century, and naturalists looking at the progression from privately owned menageries to modern day zoos.

 The copyright status of this book was reviewed for the Copyright Review Management System (CRMS) project, a collaborative effort of 14 universities made possible with the support of a National Leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  

Works Referenced

The New York Times.  “Fearful Tragedy: A Lion-Tamer Killed by Lions.”  Published: January 20, 1972.  Accessed June 4, 2013.

Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. Emu and Ostrich Farming in the Highlands of Dumfriesshire” Bell, R.  Series II, Vol 13, 46

Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. Bird Notes from Eskdale. Some -” Bell, R.  Series II, Vol 17, 64

Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. “Forts and their Connecting Trenches in Eskdalemuir” Bell, R.  Series II, Vol 17, 76

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