Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Notable books of 2012: mid-year roundup

The editors of BirdWatching magazine describe Steve N.G. Howell's guide to petrels, albatrosses, and storm-petrels, Julie Zickefoose's new collection of essays, John Marzluff's latest book about crows, Derek Lovitch's guide to becoming a better birder, David Sibley's backyard birding flashcards, and 10 other new books about birds and birdwatching.
Published: April 20, 2012

America's Other Audubon by Joy M. Kiser, Princeton Architectural Press, 2012, 144 pages, $45, hardcover.

A treasure trove of nest art

Before she died of typhoid fever at age 32 in 1879, naturalist and artist Genevieve “Gennie” Jones had been hard at work on her book Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio. From childhood, Jones had collected nests and eggs with her father, and they often discussed the need for a book that would identify each bird’s nests and eggs. Years later, after seeing handcolored engravings from Audubon’s The Birds of America, Jones decided, with the support of her parents, brother, and best friend, to create her book.

After her death, her family labored for seven years to finish the project in her memory. In 1886, 90 copies were published. Today, fewer than 25 copies remain in institutions and private collections. Fortunately, Joy M. Kiser, a former librarian with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, recognized the importance of telling the story of Gennie Jones, her family, and their remarkable book. In America’s Other Audubon, Kiser features reproductions of their original art, as well as archival photographs of the family and Gennie’s field notes about the birds she knew so well. A treasure.


  1. August 22, 2012

    Dear Ms. Kiser:

    Though I commend you for bringing this wonderful and tragic story of Genevieve Jones and her family’s quest to fulfill her dream to create original lithographs of the nests and eggs of the birds of Ohio, I must inform you that for all intents and purposes, it seems Genevieve Jones was not the other Audubon.

    John James Audubon created watercolors. Watercolors reproduced result in reproductions, -not- original works of visual art such as engravings, etchings or lithographs.

    On website, it states: “Havell took {John James Audubon} watercolor studies, engraved and etched a reverse image of the compositions on polished copperplates, inked the plates, placed dampened paper upon them, and rolled them through the press about 200 times for each copperplate image. (433 watercolor studies resulted in 435 copperplate etchings, as two compositions were double.) These images were then colored in an assembly line fashion, each artist having his own color to apply. It is not known whether Audubon himself actually assisted in any of the actual engraving or coloring at all. But he certainly supervised the work. The finished result was about 200 prints for each of the 435 copperplate etchings.”

    So, in reality, John James Audubon hired the chromist Robert Havel to reproduce his work as engraved and/or etched reproductions not engravings or etchings.

    As for the so-called John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” watercolors, J.T. Bowen was a chromist who posthumously reproduced lithographically those watercolors resulting in chromist-made reproductions.

    Since the above chromist did not obviously create the watercolors in question but just copied them, no matter how well he may have captured the details, at best, he captured them as reproductions.

    The chromist J.T. Bowen may have been an accomplished artist but in this case he was -not- creating his own artwork ie., lithographs, he was copying someone else’s artwork, in this case John James Audubon’s watercolors, resulting in reproductions.

    Lithographs are -original- works of visual art -created- by an artist, no different than any other original creative medium such as painting, sculpture and the like created by an artist.

    Unfortunately, the widespread misconceptions by the public, in majority because of misrepresentation -with or without intent- throughout the art industry, is that lithographs are copies of artwork.

    To the contrary, lithographs are -original- works of visual art “wholly executed by hand by the artist” and “excludes any mechanical and photomechanical processes.” [U.S. Customs Informed Compliance May 2006]

    In other words, Genevieve Jones and her family’s lithographs seem to be authentic works of visual art and John James Audubon’s so-called engravings, etchings and lithographs are at best nothing more than an -urban myth-.

    Caveat emptor!

    Gary Arseneau
    artist, creator of original lithographs & scholar
    Fernandina Beach, Florida