It's terrific, right down to the West Indies bird calls that I wish I could identify.
As he studied one of the works closely (it's also on the cover of Prosek's new book, photo right), he noticed
that one of the parrots -- from Yale's own Peabody Museum of Natural History -- had been collected by the real James Bond on an island off Venezuela more than 60 years ago (photo above).
How did Bond's bird skin of a Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot (Amazona barbadensis) end up in the Peabody, and then the Yale Art Gallery?
It's a fascinating story.
One of my goals in writing "The Real James Bond" was to correct many of the common misperceptions about the real James Bond (like the factoid that Bond gave Fleming to use his name), and to improve upon the usual images used for him in the media.
Then there's the shot that ran with Bond's discovery of the last Eskimo Curlew (below left), which ran in newspapers nationwide.
It shows Bond, in his mid-sixties, as a tweedy, bespectacled, eyeglass-wearing professorial type.
The Wikipedia photo for Bond (lower right) -- taken when he was in his seventies and having health problems -- made him look an old-style undertaker.
The Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia has a terrific photo of the handsome Bond that I used for my book. I share it here as well. (Thank you, Free Library!)
The two photos below were used for postage-stamp likenesses of Bond, which I included in my book.
Photo at right below: Jerry Freilich/ CC
The headline above was from an article in The New York Times in the mid-1930s. Bond was a noted ornithologist with a brand-new book, "Birds of the West Indies," by then. (But contrary to the sub-headline) he had no doctoral degree ... )
The introduction to the book went into great detail about the dangers facing the birds of the West Indies -- from humankind to hurricanes.
One of the goals of this book is to raise awareness -- and money -- to help the environment in the Caribbean. To that end, all proceeds from talks and appearances generated by this book will go to The Nature Conservancy's Caribbean initiative.
For fans of the real James Bond and Birds of the West Indies, a mystery still surrounds the very first edition, published in 1936 by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and printed by the Waverly Press in Baltimore.
The mystery is: Why was the book published with two different bindings, one gray and the other dull green, with slightly different type on the spine?
The title page for both -- indeed, the entire book -- seems identical in both instances.
The photos are of my two first editions, one in each color.
No one seems to know which was published first, or why a change was made.
The one pictured above has the original dust jacket -- which took me four years to find for sale.
The dust jacket still has $4.50 in pencil -- the original price.
Tomorrow: A great webpage about all the editions of BOTWI.36
Friday: All about the bird on the cover of the 1936 and 1947 editions.
Yesterday: Read the 1936 BOTWI online for free, here.
Last Sunday: Ian Fleming's copy of BOTWI.
When Ian Fleming stole the real James Bond's name from the cover (or title page) of Birds of the West Indies in early 1952, which edition was he looking at, the 1936 first edition or the 1947 second edition?
It's a subject of debate, with many Fleming experts siding with the 1947 edition. At this point, there's likely no definitive answer, just theories.
But according to the noted ornithologist himself, the copy in question was the original 1936 edition, as he recounted to Philadelphia Bulletin columnist Pete Martin in an interview published in October 1964.
Bond and his wife Mary had visited Goldeneye on Feb. 5 that year, and (sadly) Fleming had died on Aug. 12.
Bond said that Fleming had (at least) two editions of Birds of the West Indies at his home in Jamaica.
Bond also said: "When we saw [Fleming], he had by then bought the latest edition of Birds of the West Indies. "
In a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Fleming that was filmed the day that the real James Bond visited, Fleming's copy of Birds of the West Indies from the early 1960s is shown. (See below.)
My new illustrated biography, The Real James Bond, devotes an entire chapter to the day that Bond and Fleming met, and another chapter on the many versions of Birds of the West Indies that were published over the years.
One big question regarding that day remains: Whatever happened to Fleming's 1936 edition of Birds of the West Indies?
It is not in the Lilly Library's archive of Fleming's books at Indiana University. (I checked.)
You can read about James Bond's licenses to kill here.
You can read more about the day Fleming and Bond met here.
I came across "James Bond and citations to his books," a 2004 paper by Dr. Grant Lewison that was very helpful -- as was Dr. Lewison himself.
He assessed the impact of the various editions of Bond’s Birds of the West Indies using bibliometrics, a statistical analysis of books, articles and scientific papers.
As D5r. Lewison pointed out, it’s difficult to assess the value of a book on birds because its readership and citations depend to a large extent on its geographical coverage -- a field guide to the birds of North America, for instance, will have a larger impact than one about the Caribbean.
Factoring in those variables, Lewiston concluded that “Birds of the West Indies has proven to be of enduring scientific interest and to have established its author as an ornithologist of distinction.”
The paper is not available to the public online, but if you email him here, he will be happy to send you a .pdf of the paper. (Thanks, Grant!)
Tomorrow: Where to view an ornithological bibliography of James Bond.
(Above photo courtesy the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.)
I am very excited about the launch event for my book at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
The event will include my talk, a short question-and-answer session with Academy's Nate Rice, a book signing, and displays of James Bond memorabilia -- including first editions and birds he collected for science (still used for research today).
The photo above (from ANSP Archives Coll. 457) is of Bond in 1969 in his office at the Academy.
You can reserve a seat here.
It looks to be an awesome event, including my talk, a q-and-a with Academy ornithologist Nate Rice and me, a book signing, and display cases featuring real Jams Bond first editions and birds he collected for science (still used for research today).
You can get your tickets (and more info) here.
Here's the ANSP's press release:
I said, "Sure -- but closer to when the book arrives."
Well, time flies, and here we are.
This online interview is the first in-depth look at the book, and hopefully worth waiting for.
You can read it here.
The book arrives in four weeks -- on Friday, Feb. 28. You can order a copy from Schiffer now by clicking the book's dustjacket in the top right-hand corner.
(The photo of me is by Kevin Watson. Thanks, Kevin!)