The thing with feathers
June 28, 2012 8:23 AM   Subscribe

She and Eliza labored over the intricate illustrations, while Nelson devised a business plan to produce 100 copies of the book, to be called Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio, and sell them by subscription in approximately 23 parts, charging $5 for the hand-painted version and $2 for the uncolored version.

...Gennie and Eliza drew illustrations in wax pencil on both sides of sixty-five-pound lithographic stones. Then Howard placed the stones into crates that were shipped eighty-nine miles to Cincinnati, where [the printing company's] artisans fixed the drawings with a solution of nitric acid, applied ink to the surface of the stones, and printed test proofs to determine the quality of the renderings. When errors were found, the ink was cleaned off and the stones were recrated and shipped back to Circleville for corrections. The first stones made several trips back and forth before the artists conquered the challenges of keeping the points on the wax crayons sharp and the edges of the line drawings crisp.

Wow. And god, what a life (a much too short life). Thanks for this, latkes.
posted by rtha at 8:31 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beautiful! Thanks.
posted by mareli at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2012

I was not prepared for the intricacies and heartache of that story at all. Thank you for this post. My family lives right outside of Circleville and I never heard of Gennie Jones. What an amazing film this story would make.
posted by Isadorady at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2012

What an amazing story. And those illustrations are beautiful.

I also love the term "citizen science" for the valuable work of dedicated amateurs. I like it very much.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wow.. what amazing drawings! thanks for that..
posted by snaparapans at 9:14 AM on June 28, 2012

What's sad is a 30-year-old woman had her engagement called off by her parents(!). Lovely illustrations and great work. Thanks for the post.
posted by maxwelton at 10:05 AM on June 28, 2012

This is beautiful and so sad. Thanks!
posted by ChuraChura at 11:25 AM on June 28, 2012

Amazing story.

Maxwelton, I agree about the engagement, but I wonder what her (and his) life would have been like had she married him. Would her accomplishments have become known to the world?

Thanks for the post, latkes, and I love your poetic reference. How appropriate.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:31 AM on June 28, 2012

Beautiful, simply beautiful.
posted by francesca too at 11:40 AM on June 28, 2012

Gorgeous work. Also, Allyce Beasley.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:48 PM on June 28, 2012

Wait, why see Allyce Beasley?
posted by latkes at 1:40 PM on June 28, 2012

This is a profoundly moving post. It's not just the story of extraordinarily brilliant artistry with a precise, scientific eye in a gifted child, then young woman, decades before her time. It's an incredible saga of her family's support of her vision, repeatedly shipping huge, heavy rocks with crayon work on them to be lithographed. Wow. Then, when she, Genevieve Jones, died, her family took on her work with their own dedication, sinking their last penny and effort-until-death into this labor of love.

What I don't understand is why this priceless treasure was locked away in a room by her brother, Howard? Why was this astounding work forgotten for so many years and only discovered by his 12 year old grandson's curiosity?

It's a wonderful thing it's come to light. Thanks for this treasure of a post latkes. Nice find!

Those eyes of hers!
posted by nickyskye at 1:54 PM on June 28, 2012

Joy Kiser (author) was interviewed about the book today on All Things Considered.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:19 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can wholeheartedly attest to this book being a *gorgeous* product. I have very fond memories of discovering the Smithsonian site, with all the illustrations and background, some years ago.
posted by peacay at 8:48 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Was hoping you'd show up peacay! Really great additional link.
posted by latkes at 8:58 PM on June 28, 2012

Bonus: she seems to have accomplished this without destroying uncounted thousands of animals with a shotgun.

(And I found this great quote: "Birding God, Roger Tory Peterson, broke Audubon's shotgun on his knee, picked up binoculars, loaded a paintbrush, & invented the modern field guide. ")
posted by IAmBroom at 11:49 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just got the book, it is quite amazing.. not just a scientific study as there is a deep psychological element that charges the drawings. really extraordinary works.
posted by snaparapans at 1:21 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

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