Happy Spring! The weather is getting warmer this week and the birds are chirping. Have you ever wondered what kinds of birds are chirping at you? If you did wonder, you probably googled it. When people used to want to identify birds (or plants or insects or lizards…), they had to look the bird up in a book.
In the mid-1800’s, many books were being published with color illustrations of birds. John James Audubon was publishing books from the 1820’s until almost 1840, and many more were showing up on the market. These books were rarely cheap, with a complete collection of Audubon’s illustrations costing subscribers $1,000 at the time. We have some copies of Audubon publications, but none of the famous illustrations from “The Birds of America”.
Shortly after Audubon was selling his illustrations to the affluent, Jacob Studer (1840-1904) published a much more affordable book of birds. Studer was a printer, lithographer, painter, and ornithologist active in Columbus, Ohio from the 1860’s to 1880’s. He published “Studer’s Popular Ornithology: The Birds of North America” in 1878. The illustrations in this book are based on the art by Theodore Jaspar, an artist also from Colombus, Ohio. Studer wrote the extremely thorough descriptive text that accompanies Jaspar’s artwork.
The copy in our collection is an original first edition and the outside is in delicate condition. The front cover is completely unattached from the rest of the book. Luckily, the illustrations inside are still immaculate, most of them with the original tissue paper in between the pages for protection.
The book includes 700 species of birds from North America, many of them with both male and female coloration and other life stages depicted in the paintings.
This painting of a prairie hen, or a Pinnated Grouse, even depicts a person and his dog on his way to hunt the bird. The accompanying text for this bird mentions their rarity at the time and unfortunately they are even rarer today. Some of his descriptive text is questionable, and today a bird guide would contain no alliterative text and the accompanying photos would not include a hunter! The prairie chicken can still be found here in Oklahoma on our prairies and is protected in the United States.
If you would like to see this book or others like it from our collection, we are still open to TU students and affiliates. Our visitor policy can be found here.
If you have a question or are not a TU affiliate and would like scans of something from our collections, do not hesitate to reach out to us as firstname.lastname@example.org.