America’s Other Audubon

By Joy M. Kiser

Princeton Architectural Press, 2012; 192 pages, $45.00

When preview engravings began to circulate in 1878, naturalists hailed Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio as “one of the great illustrated works on North American Ornithology,” an artistic achievement to rival that of John James Audubon. “The nests and eggs,” as it is affectionately known among ornithologists and natural history rare-book mavens, was indeed a remarkable creation, its lithographs of the nests of common birds so faithfully rendered that you could almost see their twigs and feathers trembling in the breeze. But behind the stunning pictures was a story both of family tragedy and of triumph. Genevieve E. Jones, the brilliant and artistic daughter of a physician from Circleville, Ohio, conceived the work; her brother Howard collected the specimens; and father Nelson, an avid birder, financed the publication. When Genevieve died of typhoid fever after completing only five of the illustrations, her mother, Virginia, with help from her son and husband, devoted seven years to bringing the work to completion. Because of the great expense of publication, only ninety copies of the book were ultimately completed, (one of them sold by subscription to a young Theodore Roosevelt), and only twenty-six of the fifty-three hand-colored copies survive today, mostly in library collections. Now beautifully reproduced in a popular edition, with a sensitive introduction by writer and librarian Joy Kiser, Genevieve E. Jones’s project should finally get the wide audience it deserves.

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