Applewood Books: American Roots: The Passenger Pigeon – John James Audobon

3 out of 5

For the unawares – I’m grouping myself in this category – John James Audobon famously wrote and illustrated ‘The Birds of America,’ an 1830s visual study of 400+ birds, still highly regarded (with original copies also still going for high quantities of cash to collector types). A companion piece to this was ‘Ornithological Biography,’ from which this lil’ 32-page excerpt on the titular pigeon is taken.

While I think this is a cutely constructed book, and the text itself is noteworthy in how “facts” of the day were derived from what we could casually observe – Audobon makes statements based on the patterns of flight he noticed, and estimated flock sizes and travel capabilities based on quick maths and conjecture – it’s very much a gift item, and likely best as part of the American Roots set, and / or as an addendum to a pigeon fascination (I’m in that group again). That’s really the only reason for the middling rating: it would seem best for bird fans to get their hands on the whole Biography, as this slice, content-wise, is amusing but somewhat pointless.

The design is, as mentioned, cute, with very well chosen typeface and some newly provided illustrations (cover; an endpiece) that support that. The slim hardcover binding is solid, but flexible. No page numbers, which doesn’t break the world when it’s only 30 pages, but still. There is an intro from Applewood Books guy Phil Zuckerman, but it’s more just a personal note; some scribbles on why this was selected for being part of the line would’ve been nice, as ol’ uneducated me had to look Audobon up.