About this piece:
A Field Guide to Extinct Birds is a hand bound, letterpress printed collection of extinct birds from around the world. It is a consideration of the history of field guides, and the unique qualities that print brought to the field guide, and to bird books in general. Produced in an edition of 25, with 20 standard and 5 deluxe. Hand bound and letterpress printed from handset metal type and reduction woodblock prints. 88 pages. Drum-leaf binding in Japanese silk and paper.
Field guides are a distinctly utilitarian subspecies of bird book, which are currently transitioning from printed language to digital media. We live in a time of technological transformation, and of mass extinctions; over the last half a billion years there have been five major extinction events, time periods where the diversity of life suddenly and dramatically has decreased. We are living through the sixth major mass extinction.
I was interested in the relationship and the differences between obsolescence and extinction, in how we remember that which we lose, and what that process looks like. As the utilitarian book loses its place in the field, it opens up the opportunity for artistic speculation. Much of the book is concerned with what we don’t know, or what we guess to be the truth; the printed word carries with it a sense of authority that is undercut by the uncertainty of knowing what happened to many of these birds.
Text is written by the artist. Imagery was drawn and carved, based on historical illustrations of extinct species.
paper, ink, adhesive, cloth
About the artist:
Sarah Nicholls is a visual artist whose work combines language, image, visual narrative, and time. She has written a collection of self-help aphorisms, publishes a series of informational pamphlets, and has just completed a field guide to extinct birds. For twelve years, she ran the studio programs at the Center for Book Arts in NYC, organizing workshops, public programs, residencies, and publications that advance the art of the book. Her limited edition artist books are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Oberlin, Stanford University, and the University of Washington, among others.