Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Story of a Book

Scanning the newspaper listing of events in Dallas this summer, one item caught my attention; the Dallas chapter of the Audubon Society and the Dallas Museum of Art were sponsoring a lecture by Joy M. Kiser.  I wondered what the connection was between the two groups and read on to learn that  Kiser is the author of a wonderful new book, America's Other Audubon.

Actually, her book is a wonderful book ABOUT another wonderful book.  America's Other Audubon is the story of the creation of Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio.  The book “within the book” was the work of Genevieve Estelle Jones, amateur ornithologist, who at age 29,  set out to document the nests in the style of John James Audubon, inspired by an exhibit of his paintings from Birds of America  at the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia.

America's Other Audubon details the steps involved in collecting and portraying the nests, a project that came to involve all of Jones’ family as well as her friend Eliza J. Schulze.  Segments of the book, each consisting of three illustrations and text, were sold by subscription, $5.00 for copies with hand colored lithographs and $2.50, uncolored.  The original plan, to depict nest and eggs for the 130 birds that nested in Ohio, was not to be fulfilled, due to Genevieve’s death from typhoid at age 32; Genevieve’s mother completed the portion of the project that was already underway.  Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio won favorable notice from Theodore Roosevelt, among others. 

As a new assistant librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, author Kiser became intrigued with an exhibit of Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio, and went on to learn the story behind the story.  America's Other Audubon includes reproductions of illustrations and is beautifully bound.  A copy will be on loan for viewing in the Multi-purpose Meeting Room of the Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge from November 18 – December 8, 2012.

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