Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A peek into The Passenger Pigeon

I received an early Christmas present this year - a copy of The Passenger Pigeon, a book written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon. The author Errol Fuller actually contacted me after finding my work on this very blog, to ask permission to use my artwork in the book. Fuller, an artist, naturalist, and author, has written a few books in a similar vein about extinct animals. Of course, with my enthusiasm for birds and conservation, I was excited to be involved.

There are already quite a few reviews of the book online (notably from Huffington Post and Financial Times, the latter of which includes many evocative preview photos), so I won't write too much here other than to summarize the book. The Passenger Pigeon is the story of a species that went from the most numerous bird in the world to completely extinct in a matter of a few hundred years, due entirely to hunting by humans. As such, it's also the story of our own short-sighted folly and the awakening of the conservation movement in America. The book is full of pictures, everything from artwork, historical documents, and most interestingly, many photos of passenger pigeons, which can be hard to come by even with Google around.

I've taken a few snapshots of the book to share. First, the cover, featuring an illustration by the godfather of bird art, John James Audubon:

The contents page. Hello pigeon!

Here's where my work appears, in the section describing the pigeon's plunge towards extinction:

There are illustrations of birds throughout, many of them historical:

And some work by contemporary artists as well. Here's an amazing piece by Sara Angelucci, part of her Aviary series, which combines photos of birds and people in the style of cartes de visites. Do check out the rest of her site—it's full of fascinating artwork.

This was an unusual and meaningful project for me to be involved in; I'm really happy with how the book turned out. If you're interested in ordering a copy, The Passenger Pigeon is available on Princeton University Press's website, as well as through Amazon.

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