The eyecatching front cover of Bristol Zoo's late-1960s guidebook (Bristol Zoo Gardens/Dr Karl Shuker)
One of the most delightful features of car boot sales, bric-a-brac fairs, and suchlike is the frequent opportunity presented by them to buy items that you once possessed, perhaps many years ago as a child, but subsequently broke, discarded, or lost, and have often wished that you still owned. Out there, somewhere, are a last few surviving representatives of those items, and such selling venues as these often provide a last chance of reconnecting with them, and rekindling precious memories that they embody. Over the years, I've bought several such items, including the example presented here.
The first time that I ever saw a white tiger was when my parents took me to Bristol Zoo in the late 1960s. Whenever we visited any zoo, moreover, they would always buy me its current guidebook, and I particularly remember the one from that first of many visits to Bristol Zoo because of the stunning full-colour photo of a white tiger on the front cover – so stunning, sadly, that it was soon snipped off and pasted into one of the many wildlife scrapbooks that I used to compile at that age.
In later years, however, I bitterly regretted mutilating that guidebook, and I yearned to obtain a complete, undamaged replacement somehow, but that particular edition had long been supplanted at the zoo by later editions with different covers and contents. A couple of years ago, however, while browsing through a box containing assorted guidebooks to stately homes as well as other printed ephemera at a bric-a-brac fair, I was stunned but delighted to find a near-pristine copy of that old late-1960s Bristol Zoo guidebook with its well-remembered white tiger cover.
Purchased for £1, it now takes pride of place among my collection of other guidebooks acquired during my numerous visits to zoos in the UK and overseas.
Another photograph of Bristol Zoo's late 1960s white tigers from this same guidebook (Bristol Zoo Gardens/Dr Karl Shuker)
For an extensive account of the history and genetics of white tigers, see my latest book Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2012).