America's Other Audubon
By Joy M. Kiser
(Princeton Architectural Press, Hardcover, 9781616890599, 192pp.)
Publication Date: May 2012
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America's Other Audubon chronicles the story of Genevieve Jones, her family, and the making of an extraordinary nineteenth-century book, Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio. At the age of twenty-nine, Genevieve Jones, an amateur naturalist/artist and daughter of a country doctor, visited the 1876 Centennial World's Fair in Philadelphia, where she saw Audubon's paintings in Birds of America on display. His artwork inspired her to undertake the production of a book illustrating the birds nests and eggs that Audubon neglected to include in his work. Her parents were reluctant to support the undertaking of such an ambitious and expensive project until Genevieve became despondent over a broken engagement. Concerned over her fragile mental state, they encouraged her to begin the book as a distraction. Her brother collected the nests and eggs, her father paid for the publishing costs, and Genevieve and her girlhood friend learned lithography and began illustrating the specimens. The book was sold by subscription in twenty-three parts. When part one of Genevieve's work was issued, leading ornithologists praised the illustrations, and Rutherford B. Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt added their names to the subscription list. One reviewer wrote: It is one of the most beautiful and desirable works that has ever appeared in the United States upon any branch of natural history and ranks with Audubon's celebrated work on birds. Then, suddenly, Genevieve died of typhoid fever after personally completing only five of the illustrations. Her family took up the completion of the work in her memory. They labored for seven years until the book was completed in 1886; collecting nests and eggs, drawing lithographs on stone, and hand coloring fifty copies of each illustration, and writing the field notes for each species of bird. Both the brother who collected the nests and eggs and wrote the field notes, and the mother who completed the drawings on stone and hand coloring, were stricken with typhoid fever two years after Genevieve's death and nearly died. In spite of serious damage to their health, they never gave up and labored until the book was finished. The father covered the publishing costs, which were higher than had been anticipated and were not covered by the subscription price, and ultimately lost his entire retirement savings completing the task in his daughter's memory. The mother lost her eyesight at the end of her life from the effects of typhoid fever and long hours of straining to draw and color the nests and eggs. But neither parent ever complained and considered their work on the book the most important accomplishment of their lives. When the mother's copy of the volume was exhibited on the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, it was awarded a bronze medal. Only 90 copies of the book were produced and fewer than 20 have been located today in libraries or in private collections. America's Other Audubon includes a foreword by the Curator of Natural-History Rare Books at the Smithsonian, Leslie Overstreet, a prologue and introduction by researcher and writer Joy M. Kiser (with archival photographs of the family and original advertisements and ephemera from the publication and sale of the book), the 68 original color plates of nests and eggs, plus selected field notes, a key to the eggs, and a key to the birds scientific and current common names (which have changed since the book first published in the nineteenth century). Joy Kiser has been friends with the Jones ancestors for fourteen years and has access to family photographs and documents that the general public has never seen. The Joneses story has never been fully told and no other author is better prepared to tell it.
In the late 1800s, Genevieve Jones set out to create the first book in America to catalogue the nests and eggs of birds. But when Jones tragically died of typhoid, her family made the remarkable commitment to complete the project. Melissa Block talks with Joy Kiser, who has once again published the illustrations and wrote the story behind their creation in her book, America's Other Audubon. More at NPR.org
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"The lithographs in Joy M. Kiser's America's Other Audubon are works of great beauty and scientific accuracy. But behind them is a tragedy -- the story of a hugely ambitious undertaking begun in heartbreak and completed in grief." -- Chicago Tribune
"These are exceptional and heretofore almost unknown late 19th-century color paintings of birds' nests and eggs by an obscure Ohio family. Begun by Genevieve Jones, who died young, it was eventually completed by her brother Howard, mother Virginia, and friend Eliza Schulze. This book is essentially by them, a reissue of an 1886 title of which only 90 copies were printed. Kiser, a former librarian resurrected this work and contributes a compelling introduction. The nest paintings, aside from their stunning accuracy, are works of art in their own right.... These paintings charm and delight.... Highly recommended." -- Library Journal
"The story behind these lithographs reminds us of the unsung heroines of our natural-history literature. There will likely never be a Jones Society, but [Genevieve] clearly had something of Audubon in her soul, and more besides." -- Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"The paintings are delicate and exquisite." -- Seattle Times
"America's Other Audubon is an uncommon delight. This new volume is an opportunity to discover an essential 'lost' treasure of American natural history, as well as an invitation to deepen our own connection with a wilder, natural world." -- Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Crow Planet
"Should be shelved in every birder's library next to Audubon's own paintings." -- Buffalo News
"One of the great triumphs of 19th century art and natural history.... The introduction by Kiser offers a poignant and abundantly fascinating snapshot of the Jones family." -- The Columbus Dispatch
"Not since J. A. Baker's The Peregrine has there been such a moving book about birds. The story of the gifted-but-doomed amateur, the passion of the undertaking shake us. The beauty of the plates and their accessibility, until now denied all except a few who owned the rare original book, make this a rich gift to all who find interest in the natural world." -- Annie Proulx, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Shipping News
"If Emily Dickinson had been an amateur naturalist and painter, she would've been Genevieve Jones, whose life and work are lovingly resurrected here. Inspired by Audubon's Birds of America, Jones, the daughter of a country doctor, sought to create a book, "Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio," to complement his work. Jones died during the project -- at 32 from typhoid fever -- but her family finished it. Just 90 copies were made, but now a classic work of science and art, and a fascinating 19th-century life, have been returned to us." --- New York Times
"If Audubon -- who had plenty of help, but who lives in the mind as a solitary inventor -- is the Robinson Crusoe of nature art, then the Joneses are the Swiss Family Robinson. America's Other Audubon is a vital work of scholarly reclamation that will, I hope, introduce a wide world to the remarkable Genevieve Jones and the familial collaboration her life and death inspired. -- Jonathan Rosen, author of The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature
"I have been enjoying simply browsing and admiring this wonderful book, for both the skill of the human artist and the intricacy of the birds' constructions. The most remarkable thing is that this work has been neglected for so long, and I'm very pleased to see it now getting the recognition it deserves." -- David Allen Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Birds
"Exquisite." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer
"America's Other Audubon, an appropriately lavish large-format volume full of Gennie, Virginia, and Eliza's gorgeous illustrations, captures this extraordinary story of curiosity, creativity, and entrepreneurship with the kind of rigor and passion on par with the Joneses' own." -- BrainPickings