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The Great Breeders and Their Methods, by Abram S. Hewitt

March 20, 2011

I have a nice looking copy of the hard-to-find The Great Breeders and Their Methods, by Abram S. Hewitt (1982). I was pleased it looked so nice. I opened it up and, sure enough, there is a bit of underlining, in blue pen, on pages 5-144 and pages 381-388 (the book’s summary), while pages 145-380 look unread. I had a talk with the person who underlined some of the books, including this one, and he said it is helpful for him to underline while he is reading. It helps keep him focused. He said he’d change his ways. It wasn’t until I started trying to thin out my book collection by selling them that I realized the value of an ink-free book. I too have started not underlining and use a bookmark instead of folding the corners. It doesn’t affect my relationship with the book and what it has to say. Sometimes I’ll take notes in a separate notebook, in order to keep focused.

This is one of the few books in the collection of horse books for sale with underlining, and it is still readable and usable – and all the photographs are still untouched. This book discusses the move from distance racing to speed racing and the breeders largely responsible for this change. In the preface, Hewitt writes,

“My effort has been to combine, where appropriate, facts, legends, and analyses of the patterns followed by the various breeders. Facts, of course, can be used for reference and have their place, but taken by themselves are often dull; analyses can be revealing and helpful, especially if the reader agrees with them; and legends are entertaining and can bring the spice of life to lovers of the thoroughbred and its traditions.”

I was curious about Hewitt, and I found out that he too is a legend, described as a Renaissance man, eloquent and worldly. The list of his accomplishments include that of breeder of a classic winner and writer of several books on horses. His 1987 obituary lists many more:

Aristocratic grandson and namesake of a mayor of New York; Oxford man in the days of Evelyn Waugh; professor of law at Columbia and Johns Hopkins; member of the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) who tried to convince FDR the Russians would get too much the way the Normandy Invasion was designed; bon vivant and confidant of Prince Aly Khan; formidable international lawyer; master of Montana Hall farm in Virginia; breeder of a classic winner, Phalanx; astute dealer who bought Some Chance from Ben Jones for $7,000 and won over $90,000 with him and who decades later imported Sirlad; economist; proud and bemused father; raconteur; pedigree expert, and author.  When Hewitt spoke of Atty Persse, George Lambton, or other mainstays of the British Turf of an earlier day, he did so from the memory of acquaintance, not merely history books. When he spoke of breeding theories, he did so from the perspective of having applied them, not merely thought of them, and until the end—long past the age when many men’s minds have been set on all matters—he was ever ready to examine a new idea, a novel approach.

No doubt this book comes from that special place in Hewitt’s mind. For more information on this fascinating and worthwhile book, please contact me.

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