In my work I strive to carve wooden birds that harken back to the golden age of the naturalist movement. At Christmas my oldest gave me a copy of Frank M. Chapman‘s Birds of Eastern North American. I was smitten. Chapman’s scientific approach, fantastic illustrations and a beautiful embossed cover not only made this book a treasure, but also useful in my work.
I began to research Chapman and found that he published many early guidebooks. Birds of Eastern North America included two pages of color samples, much like paint chips, in an attempt to standardize the colors as they are described in the guide.
These color samples are very interesting to me. I’ve forty, or so, containers of paint in my studio. The idea of standardizing my paints to thirty period colors is intriguing.
When I saw that Chapman published Color Key to American Birds in 1903 I had to see a copy. I found several at Alibris and ordered on immediately.
I was not disappointed. The embossed four color cover is amazingly beautiful. The book contained no colorful lithographs like some early works, but Chapman has arranged all North American birds by color in order to help naturalist quickly identify birds. The illustrations are letterpress printed — most in black with a second color. These will serve as great references for my work.
One of the most interesting things about these older field guides are the descriptions of extinct birds (that weren’t at the time) and the spread of introduced species. In the neat future I will cross reference some of my older guides and explore this information.
Chapman wrote a guide to field work, camping and photography, Camps and Cruises of an Ornithologist, that I would like to read. Unfortunately the book is illustrated in black and white half-tone.