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Britmarine
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My summer reading

Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:48 am

Forty years ago, I spent two weeks of my summer vacation in Italy. It was a two-centre trip seamlessly organised by the country's national tourist agency with half-board hotel accommodation in Rome during the first week and on the Amalfi coast during the second, which enabled me to go snorkelling in the cool waters of the Mediterranean before flying back to the UK.
IlSubacqueo.jpg
While sightseeing in Rome, a copy of the August/September 1977 issue of Il Subacqueo (above) caught my eye at a newspaper kiosk. I was looking for something to read in my hotel room after dinner and one of Italy's diving magazines fitted the bill as my mind was drifting towards the second vacation week to be spent on the coast. That magazine still stands on one of the shelves of my bookcase of diving literature. On page 78 of the magazine I found an advertisement for an underwater equipment purchaser's guide entitled Guida all'acquisto dell'attrezzatura subacquea:
Image Image
Books wholly dedicated to diving equipment were an early passion of mine and also something of a rarity. The following morning I managed to locate the small volume in a nearby Roman bookstore. Its 64 pages covered the full gamut of underwater gear available in the late 1970s, not only breathing apparatus but also the basics, including masks, snorkels, fins, suits, weight belts, knives, spearguns, watches, depth meters. 2000 Italian Lire well spent for the booklet, which stands next to its 1967 German-language counterpart by Wolfgang Freihen (below) in my bookcase:
WFreihen.jpg
Curiously enough, there is no English- or French-language equivalent to complement these Italian and German titles.

My summer reading this year will be another title by Luigi Fabbri, the author of Guida all'acquisto dell'attrezzatura subacquea:
Image
I have just taken delivery of a copy of Fabbri's 2014 publication Le attrezzature subacquee nel loro tempo 1930-1990, which charts the development of underwater equipment from 1930 to 1990. These six decades are divided into the following five historical periods (my rough translation from the Italian):
1930-1950: The era of pioneers
1950-1960: The discovery of the sea
1960-1970: The golden age
1970-1980: The race to the Sixth Continent
1980-1990: The sea for everyone
The book is profusely illustrated with drawings and colour photographs, many of which can also be viewed on vintage diving websites. Luigi Fabbri has his own magnificent Blu Time Scuba History site at http://blutimescubahistory.com/ and I urge everybody to visit it to see his collection of historical diving literature and equipment built up over a lifetime of passion for his subject.

As for the book itself, the president of the Historical Diving Society of Italy has provided the following review: "Scorrendo le pagine del libro, leggendone i testi e ammirando le immagini che esse contengono, tutti i sub potranno ripercorrere la storia della subacquea moderna. I più maturi forse con un po' di nostalgia e quali meno maturi o giovanissimi meravigliandosi di come il tutto abbia avuto inizio." My translation: "Scrolling through the pages of the book, reading the texts and admiring the images they contain, all divers can retrace the history of modern diving. The more mature perhaps with a little nostalgia and those less mature or very young wondering how it all began."

I hope the above is of some interest to diving historians and readers of diving literature. I am looking forward over the next few weeks to a more detailed perusal of Luigi Fabbri's Le attrezzature subacquee nel loro tempo 1930-1990.

Bibliographical reference:
Luigi Fabbri (2014) Le attrezzature subacquee nel loro tempo 1930-1990. Prodotti, avvenimenti, personaggi, protagonisti dell'evoluzione della subacquea. Edizioni Ireco (http://www.ireco.net). Price: € 30.00.
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Bryan
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Re: My summer reading

Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:41 am

Great post! Thanks for the cool information.

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Doing it right should include some common sense, not just blindly following specs and instructions. .Gary D, AWAP on SB

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Britmarine
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Re: My summer reading

Tue Jul 17, 2018 12:10 pm

Thanks for the acknowledgement, Bryan.

I forgot to mention in my review that this title is not only worth a look because of its focus on "prodotti" (products) of historical diving equipment made and sold from the mid to the late twentieth century. It is also a valuable source of information about the "personaggi" (personalities) active during those decades in the European field of diving equipment manufacturing and marketing. I'm pretty sure we're all familiar with the likes of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Hans Hass, but Luigi Ferraro, Egidio Cressi, Ludovico Mares, Raimondo Bucher, Maxime Forjot and Raymond Pulvénis were also pioneers in their day and deserve to be remembered too. Fabbri's book and his website have done a lot to champion their cause for elevation to the pantheon of diving.

I welcome further comments about Le attrezzatura subacquee nel loro tempo 1930-1990. Alternatively, and in keeping with the title I have assigned to this thread, I'd love to hear about other people's choice of diving literature for summer reading.

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lakediver
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Re: My summer reading

Wed Jul 18, 2018 4:27 pm

I recently acquired this 1954 bound edition of National Geographic magazine at my local library when they were culling their inventory. It includes one of Cousteau's first articles for the magazine. Love the numerous Kodachrome images. If memory serves me this would be quite challenging because the film only had an EI of about 25.
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Britmarine
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Re: My summer reading

Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:27 am

National Geographic magazines are great. My Dad took out a subscription during the 1950s and I was entranced with the colour photographs at a time when printed matter was relentlessly monochrome. It must have cost him a tidy sum to have had the magazine delivered each month to our address in the UK. During retirement, he was able to visit the United States and view there the sights of New York and Washington DC that he had seen while leafing through his magazines decades before.

When maps came with the National Geographic, I marvelled at the geometric grid layouts of American cities contrasting with the crooked, meandering streets of my own home town and most other large settlements on this side of the Atlantic. Even the magazine advertisements filled me with wonder, as I read about the glorious sunshine above Tucson, AZ and the smart cadet uniforms worn by boys of my age attending US military schools.

I have only one National Geographic on my bookshelf:
img456.jpg
I rescued this January 1962 issue years ago while I was clearing the family home. Jerry Greenberg's snapshot of a female diver with a double-hose regulator, light blue full-foot fins, yellow oval mask and red swimsuit reminds me how colourful diving gear was back in the early 1960s. What a contrast with the world in which we now live, where the dominant diving gear colour is black, despite the ability of underwater photography to display millions of different hues!

I too have often rummaged through the surplus stock of public libraries here in the UK and States-side. Public library cast-offs have filled several shelves of my bookcase dedicated to diving literature. They are all hardbacks, which would otherwise be an expensive purchase. Over the years, I've also collected diving tomes during visits to used bookstores throughout Europe and North America. When planning vacation trips to unfamilar towns, I've always included used bookstores in the itinerary. Sadly, many of these shops have since closed. Nowadays, I tend to look for old books on eBay and this proved a very successful strategy when I wanted to research Soviet diving gear while developing my reading knowledge of Russian. I am now the proud owner of almost a dozen illustrated Soviet diving books, some of which are still available for a handful of dollars on that auction site. Some Russian-language websites feature long excerpts and scanned illustrations from such out-of-print literature, which can be another mine of information.

Any other useful sources of diving literature, old and new?
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lakediver
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Re: My summer reading

Thu Jul 19, 2018 6:45 pm

Loved your reminiscences of National Geographic magazine. I wish I still had the issues that my parents had of Cousteau's Conshelf experiences. I always loved the ads for foreign travel especially the early cruise ship ads. I think the magazine lost some of its luster when television and other media became more prevalent.

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lakediver
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Re: My summer reading

Thu Jul 19, 2018 10:32 pm

When going through old dive books of mine I rediscovered a slim volume published in 1970 entitled Diving Do's and Don'ts by Captain Steve Klem. It is full of photos and practical advice about diving safely and equipment usage. I bought this in a Key Largo dive shop (Carl Gage's) in 1972. I think he was a dive boat operator in that area. He also wrote a book called Everyone Can Snorkel in 1973. The publisher was Des Plaines Publishing Co of Des Plaines, Illinois.
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Britmarine
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Re: My summer reading

Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:48 am

Thank you for introducing this 1972 diving title to me. I've never seen it before. I particularly love books published outside capital cities because they seem so much closer to the small-town communities where their authors live and work. There's usually an interesting backstory too that is worth knowing because it reveals how the author came to share his experiences and expertise in print.

I am reminded of another title in my bookcase of diving literature:
Carole S. Briggs: (1981) Skin Diving is for me, Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis. ISBN 0-82225-1132-0.
I reviewed this book here four years ago, including personal details about its acquisition I will reproduce here with a scan of an inside page:
Image
Briggs_p5.jpg
I purchased this book as a first edition from the publisher's own premises in Minneapolis where I was spending a summer with my brother. As a retired secondary school teacher, I have always had a professional interest in getting the younger generation to catch the reading bug as early in their lives as possible. Skin diving is for me is a slender hard-back tome (48 pages) written by Carole Briggs, who spent her summers scuba diving in Tahiti and illustrated with numerous photographs taken by Carter Ayres, who dived the Great Barrier Reef and French Polynesia.

In spite of these exotic travel credentials, the book's setting is the Upper Midwest American state of Wisconsin. Briggs provides the reader with a 12-year-old girl's first-person account of her learning path in snorkelling from an outdoor pool in Madison to an open-water foray in Devil's Lake, WI. We witness her awkward start using her older brother's gear, her first visit to a dive store where she buys properly fitting gear, her success while retrieving and donning her gear at the bottom of the pool and her trip out of town to enjoy snorkelling in a State Park. The book ends as she and her family look forward to visiting Hawaii the following year.

The writing really does sound authentic, reproducing the language of a young person on the eve of her teens and conveying the protagonist's excitement as she masters new skills and copes with new experiences. Briggs is neither patronising nor sentimental, which are always dangers when an adult tries to get into the head of a child. The photographs complement the text wonderfully, illustrating each stage in the girl's progression rather than amounting to a collection of holiday snaps. So far as I know, this is the first piece of diving literature written from a young person's point of view. It is also refreshing that the protagonist should be a young female, when earlier juvenile diving literature centres almost exclusively on males in their later teens. It's great as well to see breath-hold diving being undertaken in home waters rather than foreign resorts. From a vintage diving perspective, it's also good to see an early 1980s volume without low-volume silicone-skirted masks or plastic-bladed fins.


I see prices for used copies of this slim volume are now in the region of $50, ten times the price I paid for mine when it was new.
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lakediver
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Re: My summer reading

Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:14 am

Lovely review of what sounds to be a delightful book. My first diving experience was in a Wisconsin lake also. I wonder if this remarkable young lady is still active in the sport? I hope so.

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