Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. Octavo, dustwrapper, colour illustrations.
In the first full-length study to reproduce all of Wilson's unpublished drawings for the nine-volume American Ornithology, Edward Burtt and William Davis illustrate Wilson's pioneering and often underappreciated achievement as the first ornithologist to describe the birds of the North American wilderness. Wilson travelled 12,000 miles on foot, on horseback, in a rowboat, and by stage and ship, establishing a network of observers along the way. He wrote hundreds of accounts of indigenous birds, discovered many new species, and sketched the behaviour and ecology of each species he encountered. Drawing on their expertise in both science and art, Burtt and Davis show how Wilson defied eighteenth-century conventions of biological illustration by striving for realistic depiction of birds in their native habitats. He drew them in poses meant to facilitate identification, making his work the model for modern field guides and an inspiration for Audubon, Spencer Fullerton Baird, and other naturalists who followed. On the bicentennial of his death, this beautifully illustrated volume is a fitting tribute to Alexander Wilson and his unique contributions to ornithology, ecology, and the study of animal behaviour.
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