By the Light of a Coleman Lantern: The Alaskan Field Sketches of William D. Berry

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How much do we love this book? Well, every time we stumble across a copy of William D. Berry’s Alaskan Field Sketches in a second-hand bookstore, we let out a yelp, and then dutifully, and without question, purchase yet another copy for future generations of Land Library readers, visiting naturalists, and artists.

William D. Berry: 1954-1956 Alaskan Field Sketches (edited by Elizabeth Berry) preserves over 200 pages of Berry’s meticulous and faithful drawings from nature. A wide variety of Alaska’s wildlife is fully rendered by Berry, among them: beaver, lemming, moose, wolverine, Dall sheep, Willow ptarmigan, Arctic tern, Snowshoe hare, wolf, walrus, lynx, Arctic ground squirrel, Snow bunting — along with twenty-four pages devoted to caribou, that most iconic of arctic animals.

Elizabeth Berry (William’s wife) provides commentary throughout, and we especially loved this insight into the artist as a young boy: “Bill completed his first book — on slugs — when he was five.”

William Berry (1929-1979) left relatively few finished works, but we should be satisfied with this classic collection containing a wealth of materials from his field sketches, notebooks, and letters.

Two treasured volumes at the Land Library’s Waterton Canyon Kids Library are William Berry’s wonderful prairie book, Buffalo Land, and Deneki: An Alaskan Moose (pictured above). Plus, you guessed it, one of those used bookstore “eureka-finds” of William D. Berry: 1954-1956 Alaskan Field Sketches!

bear pages
Grizzly Bear Ursus arctos (2 of 11 pages devoted to Alaska’s bears).

Bill’s field sketches were his record of what he saw. They were done in the field, but often finished hours later in the cabin, sometimes by the light of a Coleman lantern. — Elizabeth Berry

fox pages
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

Bill’s fascination, and sometimes obsession, with recording the working processes of the natural world filled up most of his time….His joy in life came from observing and drawing living things; he saw amazing details in the most drab creature or place. — Elizabeth Berry

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