cover image Western Birds

Western Birds

Roger Tory Peterson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $150 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-395-64356-3

Precision and clarity characterize the pictures of birds that Peterson produced for field guides--from his first, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1934, to his most recent. These two volumes gather 300 color plates from Peterson's ``schematic illustrations,'' which have helped countless bird-watchers identify their subjects. The artist's introduction provides a brief history of his career, beginning with his initial interest in birds at age 11, continuing through his studies in New York City at the Art Students' League and at the National Academy of Design and concluding with his association with the National Audubon Society and his preeminent position as an illustrator and a force for conservation. Organized into such sections as ``The Swimmers'' and ``Birds of Prey'' (each accompanied by brief introductory text), the plates, which generally feature no more than four species, are printed on the right-hand pages, with the trademark silhouettes and identifying aids on the left. Noting that he developed this art for use in the field, Peterson observes that these pictures are neither portraits nor ``painterly.'' The collection pays eloquent tribute to Peterson's inestimable role in increasing the public's appreciation of the natural world. (Nov.)