Despite inspiring biological philosophers for centuries, there’s a dearth of printed cephalopod literature. This page brings together a dynamic list of cephalopod books from pop culture through to weighty (and often expensive) academic tomes. Cephalopods very much get a short shrift when it comes to biology books in general. As a relatively small part of modern diversity, there will normally be a tiny section covering their vast diversity in most zoology text books or they’re relegated to ‘in other news’ sections in writing on animal intelligence, cognition, marine ecosystems, the deep sea, aquaculture and worryingly almost no mention at all in climate reports and surveys. However, a small and dedicated group of authors have put cephalopods in ink, in their own right, and these are the works I want to highlight on this page.
Over time I may write up fuller reviews as blog posts and link to them here under the relevant title. In addition to ‘pure’ cephalopod literature I’ve also included some general mollusc references and historical biology references that make reference to cephalopods in limited sections.
Recommendations and suggestions of obvious omissions most welcome!
Inky Reads, Alphabetical By Title
Ammonites, Monks and Palmer. This is one of the Living Pastseries books that used to be published by the Natural History Museum in London although I suspect this may now be out of print which is a shame if it is the case. There are few books just focusing on ammonites and this one is a fine, well-illustrated introduction to the group for the non-specialist. My one complaint about this book is it’s just a bit dry. From the text and the images used it’s not going to make many converts to ammonites and their relatives if they aren’t already which is frankly criminal!
Animal Lore of Shakespeare’s Time, Emma Phipson A great little nineteenth century text, a copy of which I found reissued by the Lost Library. No doubt freely available versions can be found online. If you ever wondered if and what Shakespeare may have said about various animals this book takes the legwork out of the search. As may be expected, cephalopods were rarely on the Bard’s mind, however, there are (sadly) brief entries on squid, cuttlefish, octopus and surprisingly nautilus (likely referring to argonauts and mistakenly attributed to ‘nautilus’ by Phipson).
The Art of Splatoon Embarassingly, given this list is alphabetical this will be near the top! Splatoon and it’s sequel Splatoon 2 are video games where you play either an inkling or octoling (in the sequel) in a unique spin on competitive shooting games, the aim of which is to cover more ground in your team’s ink than the opposing team. Given the inky nature of the gameplay, it was fairly late in the games’ development that cephalopods were chosen as the (obvious) inspiration for the characters. Once the developers had settled on cephalopod-theme they really went to town on weaving cephalopods through ever facet of the game and even set up a Squid Research Lab to deliver news and updates on the game during development and after release. Two games, various cameos, a manga series, two holographic bands and three music albums later, Splatoon is firmly a recognisable franchise that has brought a love of cephalopods and cephalopod science to the masses. This art book, anonymously gifted to me (thank you mystery friend) allows the reader to see the extent of the cephalopod inspiration in details easily missed during the frantic gameplay. In addition to the characters, cephalopod themes can be found in graffitti, clothing brands, weapons and there’s even an awkwardly handled racial tension between the octolings and inklings that arose when humans went extinct and the cephalopods took over. I can’t believe this is the longest entry for a book on this list. If you’re interested, the Journal of Geek Studies has a few papers on the science of Splatoon worth your time as much as this rich visual source book.
The Book of Beasts Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century, T.H.White. Like a few other works in this list, cephalopods are only very lightly mentioned in this translated latin bestiary. Octopuses get a line, cuttlefish are mentioned in a footnote and there’s a vague reference to a giant squid in a passage about giant sea creatures. In any case, like the Pliny, Shakespeare and Aristotle references in this list, it’s a worthy addition to any history of natural history personal library to have a readily browsable ancient insight into animals at your fingertips.
Can Squid Fly, Tony Rice. This is a fun one, speculatively purchased for the title alone. Tony Rice answers 79 frequently asked questions about the ocean such as What are red tides and errr… what are methane clathrates? There are just two cephalopod questions in the mix, the titular one about flying squid and the improbably question What is the blue-ringed octopuses? One for the marine-curious perhaps.
Cetus Insolitus: Sea Serpents, Giant Cephalopods and Other Marine Monsters in Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy. This is a bizarre compilation bringing together 26 reports, articles and essays on the loose theme of sea monsters all of which I suspect are in the public domain. Unfortunately, it lacks any kind of introduction, footnotes or references and I suggest reading it whilst cross referencing online the sources of some of these accounts. Definitely a weird one.
Cephalopod Behaviour, Hanlon & Messenger. Now in it’s second edition, this pricey book (~£50) is the volume on cephalopod ethology, exhaustively referenced covering all aspects of cephalopod behaviour; history of study, evolution, sense organs, effectors, brain anatomy, body patterns, colouration, feeding and foraging, defence, reproduction, learning and communication. The printed copy of the first edition, at least, is really let down by image quality particularly for photos showing colour patterns and camouflage where the subjects of the images can barely be discerned. I’ve not accessed the web version or the hard copy second edition to see if this obvious disadvantage has been rectified. This minor negative aside, it’s a good serious introduction to cephalopods the living animals from two of the world’s experts in this field.
Cephalopod Cognition, Darmillacq, Dickel & Mather. One of the first eye-wateringly priced books on this list (~£65, pp247) this highly technical volume covers cephalopod brains and evolution as well as cognition and the environment through topics such as play in octopus, distributed nervous systems, memory and learning as well as reflections on the ‘other 95% of cephalopods’ representing the non-model organism species currently inaccessible to our understanding of their understanding. It’s an excellent primer for research scientists and covers a broad range of experimental and field observations but probably not one for the casual reader (at this price point in any case).
Cephalopods: A World Guide – Octopuses, Argonauts, Cuttlefish, Squid, Nautilus, Mark Norman. Another anomaly of publishing, this compact book with hundreds of images of cephalopods by one of the experts in the field strangely can only be found for over £200 for reasons I cannot fathom. It looks like a very nicely produced general introduction book to cephalopods but some magic combination of publishing vagueries now means it commands a ridiculous price. It is a nice book. It is not a £200-700 nice book.
Cephalopods of Australia and Sub-Antartic Territories, Amanda Reid. This recent publication focusing on Australian cephalopods (Australia is blessed with both a richness of cephalopods AND cephalopod researchers) is an essential reference for cephalopod workers in that part of the world with detailed anatomical and distribution information with illustrations organised species by species. It’s also only for the rich at £150. It’s a wonder that many cephalopod books start questioning why there aren’t more cephalopod biologists…
Cephalopods of Hong Kong, Voss & Williamson. In the introduction to this 1972 book, the authors describe how after an initial shipment of cephalopods from Hong Kong to the Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Miami were swiftly identified, the material kept coming and coming, filling the corridors until it was so pressing to regain space that the volume of research done to clear the corridors resulted in this book. It’s a fairly straight forward species by species systematic guide with identification keys in a similar style to the FAO guides and Nesis’ Cephalopods of the world (it may have been the model perhaps?). Good illustrations and photographs throughout with small sections on fishery data for species discussed. Much of the identification work has now been superseded but it’s still a nice volume to browse through.
Cephalopods of the World (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). Produced in three volumes, Volume 1-Chambered Nautiluses and Sepioids, volume 2- Myopsid and Oegopsid Squids, volume 3- Octopods and Vampire Squids and a summary volume of species of interest to commercial fisheries. These are essential references and ones I refer to on an almost daily basis. Each volume covers everything you’d want to know about cephalopods of commercial interest and has great general characteristic sections, identification keys, species profiles and diagnostics and an excellent glossary of terms. However, given that it’s geared towards practicable use, more obscure species not of commercial use have scant entries. Again, due to a limited production, physical copies go for £100-£150 a piece. However, thanks to the mission of the excellent FAO, all four of them can be accessed online for free, here’s the weblink, you can thank me later. Volumes 1, 2 and 3 have been relatively recently updated too to boot. One of, if not the most important series of books on cephalopods.
Cephalopods of the World, Kir N. Nesis. The cover to this book boasts EVERY SQUID AND CUTTLEFISH OF THE WORLD IS ILLUSTRATED telling you all you need to know about the nature of this work. This hefty volume was published to meet the need of a technical species by species guide on cephalopods following an explosion of interest in cephalopods in the 1980s across mariculture, physiological studies, neurobiology, ethology and palaeobiology. Despite the modest claim in the introduction that it’s just a basic description level species by species guide it is packed with references and anatomical information and a very detailed account of ‘general’ cephalopod characteristics. This is the kind of book I love to pore over, with all (ish) of extant cephalopod kind at my fingertips, the only way to discover species, anatomy and behaviour I’d never come across before. This major work has largely been superseded by and perhaps inspired the FAO guide to cephalopods.
Cephalopods Present and Past: New Insights and Fresh Perspectives, Landman, Aronold Davis & Mapes (eds). Retailing at over £200 (I’ve found it new at a fraction of the price by hunting online), this is not one for the personal library and perfectly highlights the problems with modern publishing practices. Like a few of the expensive academic texts here it’s hard to justify the price point given it’s not a systematic volume but published papers from a symposium. As a consequence, although each paper is of interest, they’re so specific they’re unlikely to be of general reference. For example there are papers on Middle Devonian Ammonoid embryonic development, general cephalopod phylogenetics, ram’s horn squid (one species… for now) systematics and shell ultrastructure of belemnoids. There are some really important papers here, I’ve struggled to access otherwise. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a university library this is one to access as and when rather than shell out for the book just in case.
Communication and Noncommunication by Cephalopods, Martin Moynihan. The obvious joke to make here is ‘so everything Cephalopods then’. A landmark book, the type of which I’m afraid we’ll never see again. One volume in a whole series of Animal Communication it is perfectly part popularisation as well as scientific publishing (there are data tables) punctuated with amazingly stylised illustrations of communication patterns made by cephalopod skin. A treasured find that you might be lucky to spot in second hand book stores or find relatively inexpensively through online dealers. Although much of the work has been superseded, it’s an important reference and one presented with a style just not seen these days.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, H.P.Lovecraft edited and notes by S.T.Joshi. Like a few others on this list, reading and analysing Lovecraft’s works is an entire field of scholarship alone and there are various anthologies, editions and works inspired by Lovecraft which I won’t be covering here. Despite the modern industry around Lovecraft’s works including, board games (so many board games), collectable figures, video games, stickers, tattoos, cosplay as well as ready adoption in steampunk and goth cultures (and where these overlap), it’s difficult to find any real cephalopod inspiration in the written works themselves or much evidence (that I’ve seen) that Lovecraft was that deeply inspired by them. I think the modern association is one that comes from the idea of a menacing, irreverant, deep ocean, salty, conciousness and our current knowledge of cephalopods and not one that Lovecraft ever explicitly sought to link. Of course, I’m happy that this association exists and you can even find ammonite toys and cephalopod jewellery widely marketed as ‘Lovecraftian’ ephemera. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
HETEROMORPH The Rarest Fossil Ammonites: Nature at its Most Bizarre, Wolfgang Grulke. AKA, the one that got away. There was a window to buy this limited run book for a reasonable price, it now goes for £400-500. I’ve never got hands on with it at this price point so can’t recommend it on content alone (heteromorphs are cool).
Kraken, China Melville. Hard to write about without ruining the story so I’ll just stick with if you like cephalopods, natural history museums and Eldritch cults read this fiction novel!
Kraken the Curious, Exciting and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid, Wendy Williams. It’s been a good while since I read this and need to reread to refresh the memory!
A Manual of the Mollusca Being a Treatise on Recent and Fossil Shells, S.P. Woodward. Okay, this isn’t one for the casual reader looking to add to a modest library and was given to me as an amazing present. As the title implies, this volume, I have the third edition published in 1875, covers the whole of mollusca but the spine and cover are embossed with a golden octopus and argonaut respectively. The inside over is a beautiful section of a nautilus after Owen’s significant publication and so I think we know what Woodward’s favourite group was! Obviously, extremely out of date but no less for it, volumes like this are a time machine into scientific thought of the time. Cephalopods, extant and extinct get a ‘mere’ 40 pages in the synopsis of genera but are mentioned throughout the lengthy introduction. If you don’t fancy tracking down a copy through a rare book dealer, there’s at least one edition on the fantastic Biodiversity Heritage Library to while away a rainy afternoon with even if it’s just admiring the illustrations and diagrams throughout.
The Mollusca Volume 12 Paleontology and Neontology of Cephalopods, Clarke & Trueman (eds.). Another insanely expensive volume going upwards of £100 second hand, this dense volume is a phenomenal, albeit schizophrenic book covering all aspects of cephalopods. Much like the Treatises on Invertebrate Paleontology this multi-volume series seeks to record a range of advances in mollusc science. Volume 12 is the only cephalopod focused volume but others cover cephalopods when considering general mollusc science. The contributor list to The Mollusca is a who’s who of molluscan biology, in this volume alone there are contributions from J.Z.Young, Nancy Voss and Malcolm Clarke. Chapters range from short and sweet sections on beaks and hooks through to an overall account of cephalopod evolution and evolution of the brain. It’s not so much a one stop shop for cephalopod science but one or two chapters remain the works on various aspects. I managed to find this super cheap during a clearance sale, hard to recommend for casual reference at full price.
The Mollusks: A Guide to Their Study, Collection and Preservation, Sturm, Pearce & Valdes (eds.). There’s a real gap in the literature for a general mollusc textbook, the vast diversity of mollusca is either crammed into a single chapter of a general invertebrate textbook, reduced to a checklist of shells with images or if there’s no depth to your wallet, you can go the route of extremely expensive family by family monographs. This sort of fills this gap although it’s part textbook to the different groups and part handbook to surveying, collecting, preservation and imaging mollusc specimens. Cephalopods are squeezed into nine pages before references with a very general introduction to the group pointing to references to follow up the research.
Nautilus Beautiful Survivor, Wolfgang Grulke. I was lucky enough to catch an exhibition of the same name at Dorset County Museum and this is the accompanying catalogue of sorts. It’s a work of passion with high production values. Much like the exhibitions itself, this book covers all aspects of nautilus and as you can see from this list a rare book that treats extant and extinct forms on an even footing. Stunning photography throughout including some extremely rare pathological specimens. It’s a big book and still available online relatively reasonably priced (unlike Grulke’s Heteromorph book which now goes for upward of £400). It’s evidently a passion project and this sometimes come through in the design of the book. A fun part of producing the book and exhibition is Grulke worked with other nautiloidologists to create an up to date nautiloid phylogeny. As well as being a fold out poster with the book this used to be donwloadable from the book’s website (sadly the domain has lapsed).
Nautilus: The Biology and Paleobiology of a Living Fossil, Saunders and Landman (eds.). Unlike other expensive books on this list (this costs ~£250), this one sort of goes some way to justifying it as it is the reference on all aspects of nautiluses. Originally published in 1987 as the definitive volume on nautilus and reprinted and updated in 2009 it is the source book on all things nautilus bringing together the “diverse and seemingly disconnected guilds- paleontologists and zoologists” on the topic. Like a Haynes manual for a car it breaks the nautiluses down into their constituent parts anatomically and deals with them chapter by chapter. An amazing scientific text there’s no doubt and it can be found for less than a quarter of the price buying directly, if you know where to look!
Octopus, Richard Schweid. This is one of only three mollusc books in the landmark Reaktion Books animal series, the others are oyster and snail. A squid, cuttlefish and nautilus volume are sorely needed! Like others in this series, this book covers the science, art, history and culture of our relationship with animals, in this case, ‘the octopus’. This is another perfect introductory text and has many beautiful colour photographs throughout. There are a few minor technical errors here and there but this is an easy recommend if you’re wanting an introduction or to introduce somebody else into the world of cephalopods.
Octopus and Squid the Soft Intelligence, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Philippe Diole. This is the book that inspired a whole generation into cephalopod science. You can find it relatively cheap trawling second hand book shops and websites. Written in Cousteau’s inimitable style, chapters are titled: Champions of Freedom, Formidable-But Lazy, Love With Many Arms and Octopus City. It’s not the kind of science book you’ll find on the market today but it will make you fall in love with cephalopods and the ocean in general.
Octopuses: A Ladybird Expert Book Helen Scales. A retro styled Ladybird Expert book, perfect for budding cephalopod enthusiasts with beautiful illustrations throughout. A great primer to the group covering vision, intelligence, evolution and anatomy. One of the most affordable books on this list but no less for it.
The Octopus Museum, Brenda Shaughnessy. A poetry book about a future where cephalopods rule the world, recommended by a fellow cephalopodolgist, I’ve ordered but not read it yet. Review inbound.
The Octopus or Devil Fish of Fiction and Fact, Henry Lee. Probably one of my favourite cephalopod books. Henry Lee gives a charming account of ‘cephalopods he has known’ and other whimsical observations and anecdotes amongst some scientific description. I’ve only ever read this in university library collections and have had half an eye looking for my own copy. You can read it right now though as it’s in the Biodiversity Heritage Library collections and (consequently probably a thousand versions of it are available in the print on demand scalping industry).
Octopus, Squid & Cuttlefish: A Visual Scientific Guide, Hanlon, Vecchione and Allcock. I was so happy when this book came out, this is THE recommended book for those wanting to ‘get into’ or start their journey into learning about cephalopods from young learners to undergraduate students. Authoritative, beautifully illustrated, comprehensive and readily available. It’s a bit pricey at £25 but covers all the bases and written by a trio of cephalopod experts. Until this book, nothing quite like this existed in the gap between children’s books and expensive technical texts. Hard recommend!
Octopuses, Squids, and their Relatives, Beth Blaxland. This is one of the few early readers books on the list, this book published for the Australian Museum. Slightly more substantial than Welcome to the World of Octopus (below) and takes the reader through the world of cephalopods through and introduction to cephalopods and then spreads about life cycles, where they live, what they eat with two up close sections on blue-ringed octopuses and giant cephalopods. Another good one for early exploration and confident young readers.
Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea, Katherine Harmon Courage. I need to reread this one for a review!
Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, Mather, Anderson & Wood. Not yet read to review.
Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life, Peter Godfrey-Smith. Finally got around to finishing this. This is a great intro to cephalopods, philosophy and evolutionary philosophy punctuated with some of Godfrey-Smith’s face to face experiences with cephalopods. Plays a little fast and loose with the evolutionary theorising for my money but a good and readable intro text.
Pliny the Elder Natural History: A Selection, Penguin Classics. This is another book that there are multiple versions, editions and translations to navigate translating the Roman naturalists observations, rumours and often times questionable insights into natural history. The copy I have and recommend to all my students in introduction to natural history classes is a relatively inexpensive and systematically organised Penguin Classics edition. As you’ll be used to reading if you’re going through this list line by line unfortunately the cephalopod section is minor, just under two pages, but packed with ancient wisdom and curiosity from land octopuses to vicious human murdering accounts. Not enough to recommend buying this book for alone (or finding one of the many many free translations online) but given that the rest of the book provides equally balmy and sometimes surprisingly accurate accounts of animals it’s a good one for the bedside table to dip in and out of.
Preparing the Ghost, Matthew Gavin Frank. One that definitely needs a reread but my recollections are this is an utterly bonkers book, part historical hunt on the trail of Reverand Harvey Moses’ iconic giant squid photograph (his weird photo was the first concrete evidence of a giant squid, image on his wikipedia page), part autobiography and part historical fiction. It’s a cephalopod-themed roller coaster ride and quite unlike anything else on this list. I loved it but it may not be to everyone’s taste.
The Search for the Giant Squid, Richard Ellis. One of the outstanding works of popular cephalopod writing and one of few on this list that focuses on a handful of species and tells their story, in this case the giant (and colossal) squid. Excellently written and referenced and there’s even a giant squid sightings timeline and section on giant squid models in museums. Desperately in need of an update to account for the last 20 years of giant squid science but a solid read without it.
In Search of Nautilus, Peter Ward. For the most part, nautiluses get a passing mention in most general mollusc and cephalopod books but there are a handful of works dedicated just to this amazing group of animals. Peter Ward’s book is in the truest sense a history of nautilus natural history from the original shells which made it into cabinets of curiosity to the work of Willey and Bidder and then a semi autobiographical account of Ward’s significant contribution to the study of this elusive group of animals. Obviously there have been major developments in the last 30 years of nautilus science but this still works as a stand alone history to the first three centuries of scientific nautilus work.
Shell Life on the Seashore, Philip Street. Originally published in 1961, this book was republished in 2019 and remains one of the few invertebrate, let alone mollusc, books to be found in burgeoning nature writing sections in high street bookshops. It’s a perfect little book packed full of information about the life histories and evolution of the molluscs you’re most likely to encounter beachcombing and rockpooling in the UK. Surprisingly not as much of the biological information within has dated as would have been expected since 1961, however, the narrative style and lack of references (in some cases to extraordinary claims, has). This is the kind of book I wish I’d had access to growing up and remains accessible despite quite a depth of technical information in places. The 2019 edition has an introduction by King of the Nature Writers Philip Hoare and a handy fold out dust jacket illustrating many of the species covered in the book. Despite most of them lacking hard parts to find washed up on a beach, cephalopods have their own short chapter, The Octopus and Its Relatives, with a few thoughts on octopuses, squid and cuttlefish. Worth reading although bring a pinch of salt for some of the accuracy of the information.
The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery. A journey through cephalopod science told through encounters with live octopuses kept in captivity and the keepers of them. Dangerously easily to get sucked (suckered?) into although don’t expect any deeply scientific answers into questions about consciousness or indeed octopus souls.
Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates, the Backbone of Life, Susan Middleton. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous photo book of a wide range of marine invertebrates including some absolutely stunning cephalopods. Even with underwater photography, ROVs and the current state of the art in aquaria, this book really brings overlooked and obscure marine invertebrates into stark contrast. We need more books like this.
Spirals in Time, Helen Scales. So much of our conceptualising of evolution is undertaken by exploring the story of us- invertebrates into chordates, chordates into fish, fish into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles, reptiles into mammals, mammals into placentals and then humans, the finished product. Even if modern popular evolutionary works make pains to dismiss the ‘Great Chain of Being’ which has dominated evolutionary thought, they still fall into the same trap. Spirals in Time is an important first step at telling another phylum’s story, the story of the molluscs. Fascinating page by page and remarkably crams a lot in given the sheer diversity of molluscs. About bloody time too!
The Squid Cinema From Hell: Kinoteuthis infernalis and the Emergence of Chthulumedia, William Brown and David H. Fleming. Not got all the way through this yet but from the first few chapters a very bonkers and overly academic text about spiritually embracing cephalopods and err cinema. Fairer review once I’ve done with it.
Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods, Danna Staaf. In published cephalopod works, squid definitely get a short shrift despite being arguably the most important group of cephalopods to humans as well as a major chunk of modern and extinct cephalopod diversity. Staaf’s excellent book seeks to redress this balance by finally giving them their own volume. Probably one of the most informative popular science books on cephalopods and I quickly learned that I had to read with a notepad to hand to jot down facts and references that Staaf weaves throughout. A major contribution to published cephalopod literature (now someone needs to do the same for cuttlefish!).
Suction Cup Dream: An Octopus Anthology. A collection of twelve short stories, broadly on the theme of octopuses and in twelve very different styles. I hugely enjoyed this and there’s not a weak link amongst them. It’s a slim volume and in need of a reread and expanded review here methinks.
Super Suckers: The Giant Pacific Octopus and Other Cephalopods of the Pacific Coast, James A. Cosgrove & Neil McDaniel. Cephalopod books focusing on a small group or in this case, a single species, are surprisingly rare as the books on this list tend to broadly cover the whole group or get a token and brief cephalopod section amongst the other molluscs. The Giant Pacific Octopus (or GPO) makes for an obvious choice for focus as the largest living species of octopus (now split into two, the Frilled Giant Pacific Octopus yet to be formally described). Although the GPO remains the focus for the most part this book covers the basics of molluscan classification, cephalopod myths and legends and intersperses describing the habit and lifestyle of GPO with fascinating marine history from Octopus Wrestling Competitions (now banned) through to the perils of being photographed with a GPO in a bikini in an icy cold aquarium tank. The last chapter briefly covers some other common cephalopods of the Pacific Coast.
Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (K) Mollusca 3 Cephalopoda. General Features, Endoceratoidea—Actinoceratoidea, Nautiloidea, Bactritoidea, (L) Mollusca 4 Cephalopoda, Ammonoidea. The Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology is one of the most impressive and at the same time insane, endeavours in scientific literature. The attempt is to cover every known invertebrate fossil group, the first volumes of which were published in 1953, many volumes remains in press, in various stage of revision, unpublished and even out of print. This multi-authored work although apparently chaotic and impossible by definition to keep up to date still remains (for those groups with published works) the definitive resource for many obscure and understudied taxa. When it comes to cephalopods there are three proposed volumes. Part K Mollusca 3 originally covered an introduction to cephalopods as well as stem cephalopods thought to be four different groups, the nautiloid part of this is currently being revised. Part L Mollusca 4 is the extinct ammonoids, the original volume is now out of print but there are two revised version split into Palaeozoic to Jurassic Ammonoids and a stand alone Cretaceous Ammonoids volume. Frustratingly Part M is the coleoids- living groups including oegopsid and myopsid squid, octopus, cuttlefish, bobtail squid and ram’s horn squid as well as belemnoids has never been published as a whole, although several chapters are available electronically. Currently available updated versions are about £60 a pop, however, older versions can be found at booksellers (and are often getting thrown out of libraries and museums if you know where to look). I have both of the older parts and they are a treasure trove of information although they do need cross referencing with contemporary classifications systems (where there is consensus!!). The bulk of which are anatomical descriptions and broad keys to different species with almost every species illustrated. Again, these are great for discovery of species you’d never find otherwise and have solid anatomical detail as well as rapidly dating thoughts on evolutionary relationships (entire volumes for groups no longer valid exist). The foremost work on fossil cephalopods short of scouring journal article by journal article for those with privileged access. Fun fact, before the Guardian cut it’s blog network which I wrote for I was working on an article about the Treatise with an interview with the current editor in order to highlight this impressive and crazy work. Might need to dust this off at some point…
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne. One of the most widely celebrated works of science fiction, I couldn’t aim to ‘review’ it as such on this page. Responsible for bringing cephalopods from the giant squid to argonauts through to the Nautilus (the book that launched a thousand boats all called Nautilus) to the mainstream. Imagery from the various illustrated editions and adaptations firmly cementing ideas of cephalopods, wavy puppet arms included, in the public consciousness. My copy is a well-thumbed Penguin Popular Classics edition but imagine for true bibliophiles one could easily bankrupt themselves collecting the numerous editions of this fantastic work published over the years.
Walking your Octopus: A Guidebook to the Domesticated Cehalopod, Brian Kesinger. A slim but charming illustrated ‘comic book’ charting good practice of domesticated cephalopod care with Kessinger’s Steampunk Victorian duo, Otto and Victoria. A lot of the illustrations can be found on Kessinger’s website here but they definitely need to be seen on the inky printed page to be appreciated. There are a number of books in the guidebook to domesticated cephalopod series, including Travelling with your Octopus, a papercraft Dressing your Octopus and of course, Colouring with your Octopus.
Welcome to the World of Octopus, Diane Swanson. I’ve not included too many kiddy books on this list but have on occasion picked them up or been gifted them to see what the next generation might be reading in relation to cephalopods (aside from the ubiquitous books about pooping, farting and losing hats and whatnot). This book is perfect for those learning to read of for short books for parents to read at bed time with or for their children.