Dinosaurs of the Sky: Consummate 19th-Century Scottish Natural History Illustrations of Birds
By Maria Popova
Birds populate our metaphors, our poems, and our children’s books, entrance our imagination with their song and their chromatically ecstatic plumage, transport us on their tender wings back to the time of the dinosaurs they evolved from. But birds are a time machine in another way, too — not only evolutionarily but culturally: While the birth of photography revolutionized manysciences, birds remained as elusive as ever, difficult to capture with lens and shutter, so that natural history illustration has remained the most expressive medium for their study and celebration.
Hundreds of different species of birds — some of them now endangered, some on the brink of extinction — populate the lavishly illustrated pages, clustered in kinship groups as living visual lists of dazzling biodiversity.
Among the cornucopia of species depicted — pigeons and parakeets, warblers and jays, woodpeckers and owls, sunbirds and sugarbirds — none occupy more space than hummingbirds, perhaps due to their enduring enchantment partway between science and magic.