A Young Artist’s Vision, and the Family That Saw it Through

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It’s early yet, but this may be one of the publishing events of the year: Joy M. Kiser’s America’s Other Audubon — a beautifully illustrated book that resurrects an all-but-forgotten natural history classic. Here’s much more about this wonderful new book, best told by the following publisher’s notes:

“Most people are familiar with John James Audubon and his seminal book, Birds of America. But few are aware of another monumental volume of stunning artwork, Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio, created by a remarkable American family.
Inspired by viewing Audubon’s lithographs at the 1876 World’s Fair, twenty-nine year old artist Genevieve Jones (pictured above) began work on a companion to Birds of America, but this time illustrating the nests and eggs that Audubon left out. Her brother collected the nests and eggs, her father paid all publishing costs, and Genevieve and her girlhood friend learned lithography and undertook the work of a lifetime.
Tragically, Genevieve Jones’ life was cut short by the sudden onset of typhoid fever. She died at age thirty-three. Her family, deeply in mourning, labored for seven more years to finish the project in her memory.”

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Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio, alongside Genevieve Jones’ illustration of the Wood Thrush’s egg and nest.

Ninety copies were originally printed in 1886, and only about twenty-five copies now exist. Originally the Jones family took subscriptions for the eventual publication of the book. Among the original subscribers: President Rutherford B. Hayes, and a young Harvard college student by the name of Theodore Roosevelt.

Joy M. Miller writes in America’s Other Audubon: Howard (Genevieve’s nest-hunting younger brother) spent the rest of his life trying to market remaining copies of Gennie’s book. In the end many were given to his children and grandchildren. He never stopped believing that Illustrations of the Nests and Birds of Ohio would one day be considered priceless.”

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American Goldfinch nest, illustrated by Genevieve’s mother, Virginia Jones, and Genevieve’s depiction of a Warbler’s nest.

“If Audubon is the Robinson Crusoe of nature art, then the Jones are the Swiss Family Robinson. America’s Other Audubon is a vital work of scholarly reclamation that will, I hope, introduce a wide world to the remarkable Genevieve Jones and the familial collaboration her life and death inspired.” — Jonathan Rosen, author of The Life of the Skies.

memorial portraittall nest
Genevieve’s Memorial Portrait (courtesy of the Pickaway County Historical Society), alongside her illustration of an Indigo Bunting nest.

“The story of the gifted-but-doomed amateur, the passion of the undertaking shake us. The beauty of the plates and their accessibility, until now denied all except a few who owned the rare original book, make this a rich gift to all who find interest in the natural world.” — Annie Proulx

long nest
Mourning Dove nest, illustrated by Virginia Jones

For much more of Genevieve Jones, her family, and this nearly lost treasure of American natural history, be sure to visit the Smithsonian Institution Libraries Website. It will inspire you to seek out a copy of Joy M. Kiser’s America’s Other Audubon!

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