Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Herpetological Titles in the California State Series

The state of California has published textbooks for its school system for a long period of time, beginning in 1884 (Hendrick 1964). What is generally not known, however, is that the California Department of Education (CDE) also published books by other publishers for school use. These are clearly identified with “California State Series” written across the top of the book and spine (where feasible), with further identification as a California textbook on the inside cover and publishing information on the title page (Fig. 1a-c). The content of these books is identical to those of the original publisher, although the quality of production (e.g., type of paper used) is not as good as the originals. The audience for these books appears to be grade and middle school children, although some may have wider appeal.

Fig. 1a.

Fig. 1b.
Fig. 1c.

Fig. 1a. Cover of The Reptiles by Archie Carr. California State Series edition, 1967.

Fig. 1b. Inside cover of The Reptiles identifying the book as an official California state textbook.

Fig. 1c. Title page of The Reptiles indicating publication by the California Department of Education.


            I have been able to locate three titles of herpetological interest published in the California State Series:


Carr, A. 1967. The Reptiles. Originally published in 1963 in the Life Nature Series, Time-Life Incorporated, New York. Fig. 1a.


Meeks, E.K. 1967. Snakes. Originally published in 1962 by the Follett Publishing Company, Chicago, as part of their Beginning Science Book series. Fig. 2.


Schoenknecht, C.A. 1967. Frogs and Toads. Originally published in 1960 by the Follett Publishing Company, Chicago, as part of their Beginning Science Book series. Fig. 3a, b.


Fig. 3a.

Fig. 2.

Fig. 3b.


Fig. 2. Cover of Snakes by Esther K. Meeks. California State Series edition, 1967.

Fig. 3a. Cover of Frogs and Toads by Charles A. Schoenknecht. California State Series edition, 1967.

Fig. 3b. Title page of Frogs and Toads indicating publication by the California Department of Education.


            It appears the California State Series included all titles from the Time-Life Nature series (these frequently are listed on eBay), but not the later American Wilderness series. Other titles from the Follett Publishing Company, an educational publishing company currently based in Westchester, Illinois, were also reprinted, for example, Esther K. Meeks’ book Mammals. I have been unable to find any production information on the number of individual copies published or the reason the CDE resorted to publishing copies rather than purchasing them from the original publisher. Since these books were copyrighted by their original publishers, CDE must have manufactured them under contract with the publishing firm. According to Jessie Medina of the CDE (personal communication, 25 October 2022), the CDE partnered with outside entities in the past, such as UCLA, in publishing materials, but has not done so in the last 30 years and none has covered biology or similar topics. There may have been contracts in place in the 1960s, but since it was over 50 years ago, it is likely there are no records available as they would have exceeded the records retention schedule for those types of documents.

            Although these books may not be of interest to academic herpetologists, the inclusion of the Carr book adds a heretofore unrecognized edition to the extensive reprinting of Carr’s popular The Reptiles (Dodd 2022).

Acknowledgements.   I thank Jesse Medina for information on book publishing by the California Department of Education.




Dodd, C.K., Jr. 2022. The international editions of Archie Carr’s books. Bibliotheca Herpetologica



Hendrick, I.G. 1964. The early history of California state-printed textbooks. Southern California   Quarterly 46:223–238.


Submitted by: C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr.

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