I’ve always been drawn to the books associated with my artistic pursuits. Birds and bird carving is no different and I have begun to accumulate a small and wonderful collection of old field guides. As this collection fills my collection represents various approaches to studying birds. As long as there have been field guides to birds there has been struggle between field guides for the serious birder and field guides for the casual birder.
When this book was published in 1897 the few books for birders were written for ornithologists. The illustrations, when there were illustrations, were secondary to the text. The presumption was made that the user of these books had a speciman in hand.
John Grant, in Our Common Birds and How to Know Them, utilizes the new technology of printed photography to enable amateur naturalists to identify the birds around them. The book presents an interesting balance between scientific fact and informal observation. Grant presents an explanations of bird taxonomy and naming, but includes interesting archaic common names (more on that later). Grant presents first spring appearances of migratory birds in the Hudson Valley, by date.
March 10 to 20 These become more plentiful [Robins, Bluebirds and Song Sparrows], and Purple Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds appear. Purple Finches and Flickers receive accessions, and Fox Sparros may be seen on their northward migration.
Snowy Owls retire northward.
The mounted birds depicted have that odd realistic-but-not-quite-right appearance that mounts often possess. In many cases the glass eyes are over-sized and feet are unnatural. The birds are mounted on very Victorian T-shaped perches — much like one would expect to find a trained parrot. Foot wires can be seen looped around the mounts. The author reports that the birds were mounted by J. Wallace, 16 North William Street, New York City, but never mentions the photographer or collector.
A child’s name and address are written on the frontpiece. With this information she includes an Indianapolis Public School, two classrooms and two teachers. As an Indianapolis Public School Teacher I enjoy that the book has come back home.
Any reference I cna find to John B. Grant is a reference to this book. It seems he has dissolved into obscurity.