‘Birds’ by Brian Wildsmith. Published by Oxford University Press, 1969.
I have ‘first post jitters’ and am trying to make leek and potato soup at the same time, but here goes, my first post ….
Brian Wildsmith is a hero of mine. He was born in 1930 and grew up in a small mining village in the north of England. Being a miner’s daughter from the north myself, I need no more than this to like him. However, there is a lot more to like, not least his wonderful children’s books.
The book I am about to start butchering I have had for a long time, but up until now I haven’t been able to bring my scalpel to it. Of course it is long past its best, torn and scribbled upon, otherwise I wouldn’t consider the ‘face lift’. But that’s just it, what I am about to do is give it a ‘face lift’, and despite the rips, doodles and missing page it is still a thing of absolute beauty. It does not need a ‘face lift’. Does any ‘face lift’ improve the face? I have yet to see one which does.
It was first published in 1967, this edition in 1969, and has been printed by a craftsman. The paper is matt and heavy, almost fabric, and the print is crisp and clear. Modern editions can’t hold a candle to it. The card of the cover is so thick, I will probably need to use a saw to cut it. The stitching holding the pages together is a work of art in itself. This book was made to last. And so it has, it is 44 years old.
As for the beautiful illustrations, they speak for themselves. Colour everywhere, rich and intense. There is no story, each page shows a group of birds. A party of jays. A watch of nightingales. Wildsmith is the master.
It is an unbreakable policy of mine never to cut up a book which could still be read. Despite this, I still find it hard to do. This book, without a doubt, has been the hardest. I have had it for months, unable to damage it further. This morning I got it out again, and thought about all the people to whom it has given pleasure. I actually have had it so long I can’t remember how I acquired it, although I think it was in a batch given to me by a local primary school. I have torn out the pages which weren’t already torn and intend to use every last inch of it, like a good butcher respecting the life of the animal.
There is a fading sticker inside the front cover which reads, ‘K.J. (possibly I.) Bredon’s Bookshop, East Street, Brighton’.
I would love to show you lots of images but I am worried about copyright issues, which I can’t understand because there are Wildsmith illustrations all over the internet.
To date I have made 461 cards from books and clothes, each individually numbered. None of these cards have been recorded in this way. Today I am starting back at number one. This is my first blog entry and it seems only fitting that the work of Brian Wildsmith should be top of the list.
Still got ‘first post jitters’ and my leeks are burnt, just read back through it about twenty times, seems a little stiff. May I just say here that I am not a writer or a photographer, I just want to record the making of my stuff.