Ralph Hoffmann and Two California Birders:
Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett
Robert Jan 'Roy' van de Hoek
322 Culver Boulevard, Suite 317
Playa del Rey, California 90293
Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett wrote their second book together in 1997. It was titled: A Field Guide to Warblers of North America. It was published by Houghton Mifflin in Boston, Massachusetts. This publisher also published Hoffmann's book: Birds of the Pacific States. In addition, Ralph Hoffmann was from Massachusetts and lived in the Boston area for 20 years from 1890 to 1910. Dunn and Garrett wrote their first book together in 1981. It was titled: The Birds of Southern California. It was published by the Los Angeles Audubon Society. Approximately 16 years, 1981 to 1997, seperate their two joint book projects. They also teach bird identification workshops together. This brief investigation covers their admiration for an earlier birder and naturalist named Ralph Hoffmann. It focuses on their dedication of their 1997 book and is a small contribution to history and biography of birding in southern California. The title of their book and their dedication is the focus of this article. The dedication is presented exactly as it appeared in their "warbler book" including punctuation, style, and format. From this result, it was possible to contruct a brief relational and personal biography and history that associates a linkage and lineage from Hoffmann to Dunn and Garrett, which spans three centuries.
Results A Field Guide to Warblers of North America. by
Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett
"The authors dedicate this book to Ralph Hoffman[n], whose excellent early guides, particularly Birds of the Pacific States, were influential and inspirational."
Conclusion and Summary
Two of California's most superb birders dedicated their magnificent book on warblers to Ralph Hoffmann. He was a dedicated naturalist and therefore he deserved to have a book on warblers dedicated to him. Of course, Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett themselves, are dedicated naturalists. One of them, Kimball Garrett, is employed at a natural history museum. They have shared their knowledge of birds and assisted people with identification of birds, just as Ralph Hoffmann did a century ago Dunn and Garrett teach workshops on bird identification through the Los Angeles Audubon Society. I suspect that Birds of the Pacific States, written by Ralph Hoffmann in 1927, and stayed in print for approximately 30 years until 1957. Hoffmann's field guide was available to Dunn and Garret as teenagers growing up in the 1960s.
The writings of Ralph Hoffmann were "influential and inspirational" were so important to Dunn and Garrett that they took Hoffmann's book with them on birdwatching trips in California. They must have learned warblers, at least in part, from Hoffmann's field guide.
It is unfortunate, however, that they spelled his surname incorrectly, by accidentally forgetting the second "n." No one is perfect and they must not be slighted for spelling his surname incorrectly. Accidents happen. In fact, the professional scientific journal, Auk spelled his surname wrong three times, over a period of approximately 30 years, in 1900, 1922, and lastly in 1932, in his obituary.
It would be nice to bring this 1927 classic by Ralph Hoffmann back into print. If only so that young boys and girls can be influenced and inspired, just as Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett were influenced and inspired approximately 30-40 years ago. In fact, it appears that Dunn and Garrett have been influenced and inspired by Ralph Hoffmann, for 30 years, from the 1960s to the 1990s, because they wrote their very nice dedication to Ralph Hoffmann.
Jon Dunn was born in 1954 as their book on warblers tells us. Kimball Garrett has been birding for over 40 years, which would also put his birth year, likely sometime in the 1950s. I imagine they are still in awe of Ralph Hoffmann, now 9 years after their own warbler book was published. They must be because they dedicated the book to Hoffmann. They did say that they were influenced and inspired by Hoffmann's book.
I acknowledge and dedicate this article to Tommye Hite, who volunteered to transcribe parts of Hoffmann's 1927 book, as part of a research project into the life and times of Ralph Hoffmann, in conjunction with a larger project on the history of birdwatching in southern California, particularly Los Angeles County. She also alerted me to Dunn and Garrett's dedication to Ralph Hoffmann, which I had overlooked, until she told me about it in 2005.