See Rare Books and Illustrations in the Toledo Museum of Art’s “In Fine Feather: Birds, Art & Science”

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June 16, 2014 by bbutler1969

Whether or not you’re a birdwatcher, consider traveling to the Toledo Museum of Art to see In Fine Feather: Birds, Art & Science. This exhibition of 45 works from special collections illustrates the importance of art to ornithology, especially in describing and identifying birds.

In Gallery 18, listen to recordings of bird calls and songs as you admire hand-colored engravings, etchings, lithographs, watercolors and books designed to introduce people to bird species they might not encounter in their own back yards. Some of the items on display are from the museum’s collection; others were loaned by local collectors and libraries.

In Fine Feather, Toledo Museum of ArtThe exhibit includes a reproduction of The Falconer, a 14th-century manuscript on falconry by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II that is often cited as the earliest illustrated book about birds; A General History of Birds, John Latham’s 10-volume work that was published from 1821 until 1828; Mark Catesby’s Natural History of the Carolinas, Florida and the Bahamas; and A Monography of the Ramphastidae, or Family of Toucans, written in 1854 by illustrator Henry Constantine Richter and John Gould, an English ornithologist and bird artist who published 40 volumes containing close to 3,000 illustrations of birds. The exhibit also includes the Ohio History Connection’s copy of Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio, a notable ornithological work produced in Circleville, Ohio between 1879 and 1886.

Five watercolors by Roger Tory Peterson — all recently acquired by the museum — are on view for the first time. Considered the father of the modern field guide, Peterson helped amateurs study and identify birds, most notably through the innovative use of arrows pointing to distinctive field markings of birds in his illustrations.

In Fine Feather: Birds, Art & Science is on view at the Toledo Museum of Art through July 6, 2014. A digital catalogue of In Fine Feather is available here.

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