A couple of posts ago I touched on my love of books with decorative covers. This is most definitely one of those.

As you will see it is “Adventures in Birdland” by Oliver G Pike, which was published 1907.

Following a family bereavement I laid claim to the book, wholly it must be said on account of it’s wondrous cover and spine and without a second’s thought to its content. It was to be a richer gift than I anticipated, the author was, I now know, a pioneer in wildlife photography and film making. Accordingly the books is brimming over with illustrations. There are three photogravures (etched photo hybrids) each protected by a sheet of tissue paper, a single colour plate (an illustration of a kestrel based on a water colour by one E Richmond Paton) and then ninety-two black and white photos. It has to be said that most seem a bit dull one hundred years later, but must’ve been quite something, when the book was published. They are not however without interest, particularly those showing the author setting up a hide and I love one showing a young heron attempting to drive the photographer away, and looking like something from an Oliver Postgate animation.

But what makes it for me are the line drawings on each page alongside, and sometimes spreading into the text.

Pasted into the cover is a plate that tells us that it was a prize for the RSPCA Annual Essay Competition presented by Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.

That would be history enough I would say, but also kept within it’s pages are the ticket to the event itself at the Crystal Palace on May 7th 1910, along with a sheet setting out the competition rules.

And best of all there is a copy of the prize-winning essay itself.

An interesting insight into the Edwardian era and I may post it on this blog if I can find the time to type it up.