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The Unfeathered Bird [Hardcover]

Katrina van Grouw
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
RRP: 34.95
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Book Description

13 Nov 2012

There is more to a bird than simply feathers. And just because birds evolved from a single flying ancestor doesn't mean they are structurally all the same. With over 385 stunning drawings depicting 200 species, The Unfeathered Bird is a richly illustrated book on bird anatomy that offers refreshingly original insights into what goes on beneath the feathered surface. Each exquisite drawing is made from an actual specimen and reproduced in sumptuous large format. The birds are shown in lifelike positions and engaged in behavior typical of the species: an underwater view of the skeleton of a swimming loon, the musculature of a porpoising penguin, and an unfeathered sparrowhawk plucking its prey. Jargon-free and easily accessible to any reader, the lively text relates birds' anatomy to their lifestyle and evolution, examining such questions as why penguins are bigger than auks, whether harrier hawks really have double-jointed legs, and the difference between wing claws and wing spurs. A landmark in popular bird books, The Unfeathered Bird is a must for anyone who appreciates birds or bird art.

  • A unique book that bridges art, science, and history
  • Over 385 beautiful drawings, artistically arranged in a sumptuous large-format book
  • Accessible, jargon-free text--the only book on bird anatomy aimed at the general reader
  • Drawings and text all based on actual bird specimens
  • Includes most anatomically distinct bird groups
  • Many species never illustrated before

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (13 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691151342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691151342
  • Product Dimensions: 31.2 x 25.9 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Katrina van Grouw is a former curator of the ornithological collections at London's Natural History Museum, a taxidermist, experienced bird bander, successful fine artist and a graduate of the Royal College of Art. She is the author of 'Birds', a historical retrospective of bird art (published under her maiden name, Katrina Cook), the illustrator of several other books including 'Bird Sense' by Tim Birkhead. And of course, she was the writer and illustrator of 'The Unfeathered Bird' - her lifelong ambition.
She is currently working on her second book of anatomical drawings, this time about domesticated animals. Entitled 'Unnatural Selection', it is due to be published by Princeton University Press in 2015.
Katrina lives in Buckinghamshire, England, and spends what free time she has walking on the downs with her dog, Feather.
Visit Katrina's website www.unfeatheredbird.com

Product Description


Third Place for the 2013 BB/BTO Best Bird Book of the Year, British Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology

Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Biological Sciences, Association of American Publishers

"Unsettling and irresistible. . . . [The birds] are drawn and described in the text, with great skill and attention to the details--of their structure, their evolution and their lives--and with a slightly wicked sense of humor that appears often enough to lift the book beyond another compendium of bird life. . . . This is a coffee-table book, and compelling images are enough to sell such a volume, but The Unfeathered Bird delivers on the other promise of such books, not always fulfilled, that there should be something to read. . . . [I]f you love the natural world for its astonishments, for something as obvious but thrilling as the huge variety of shapes that birds and their parts have evolved, then The Unfeathered Bird won't disappoint."--James Gorman, New York Times

"Van Grouw's focus on the skeleton rather than on external appearance gives the book a special power. Van Grouw's book was 25 years in the making: surprisingly quick, considering the work involved. An international list of friends, colleagues, farmers, conservationists--and the occasional taxidermist--donated dead birds for her (and her taxidermist husband) to pluck, skin and boil down to their skeletons. And draw--exquisitely."--Alison Abbott, Nature

"Although her detailed drawings of bones, skeletons, muscles, and other internal tissues would not be out of place in a treatise on avian anatomy, van Grouw intends them to reveal how birds' 'appearance, posture, and behavior influence, and are influenced by, their internal structure.'"--Science

"I cannot recommend The Unfeathered Bird highly enough--it's sumptuous and wonderful and should be obtained by anyone interested in birds, in anatomy, or in zoological art."--Darren Naish, Scientific American

"The Unfeathered Bird is a treasure trove of 585 stunning anatomical drawings of 200 bird species in various states of undress. [Van Grouw] offers beautiful, enlightening illustrations of musculature and details of eyes, orbits, bills, ears, feet, skulls, wings, tongues, bones. Her drawings would be sufficient by themselves, but Ms. Von Grouw has also provided a thorough, accurate, and accessible text which further explains anatomical details and evolutionary relationships. There is nothing in the literature of birds or bird art that is anything like The Unfeathered Bird. Anyone who loves birds and bird art will want this volume."--Wayne Mones, Audubon Magazine web site

"The 300+ drawings--of skinned birds, their muscular and skeletal anatomy exposed in lifelike poses--are extraordinary, a sort of 2-D bird 'Body Worlds.'. . . [The text is] lucid, colloquial, packed with information, and leavened with humor, it brings a grasp of bird evolution and adaptation within any reader's reach. . . . A magnificent--and accessible--monograph on biodiversity."--Annie Gottlieb, Scientist

"This fusion of art and science is a fascinating coffee table book that boosts that genre to another level. It invites you to browse but then catches your interest and when I intended to look through it as if waiting for the coffee to arrive I found myself slowing up to read about how the environmental niche needs skeletal variation and what makes for diving and what merely submerging. Pre-DNA taxonomy has relied on skeletal differences to reveal the phylogenetic tree so this look beneath the skin is not mere curiosity but science with a capital 'S'. On the other hand there is a beauty on the form. I've always loved scientific drawings whether of birds or botanical specimens as there is not just science in their accuracy but beauty too."--Bo Beolens, Fatbirder

"This coffee-table book would make a good gift for someone with an interest in bird or anatomy art."--Ian Paulsen, Birdbooker Report

"Gives us genuinely new insights into the behaviour of living species."--Stephen Moss, Guardian

"Katrina van Grouw's new book The Unfeathered Bird from Princeton University Press is likely to be one of the most desired books on gift lists this holiday season. This exquisitely illustrated study of bird anatomy is captivating in both its insight and its originality of illustration from the very first page."--John Riutta, Well-Read Naturalist

"[H]ere is a book with a wide appeal, a book which deserves to be studied by birders with a scientific and/or artistic bent, ornithologists, bird artists, bird photographers, biologists, natural historians, and artists of all persuasions. The author states that the original intention was a book aimed at artists and it was only during the early stages that she realized it could have wider appeal. In my opinion it was a realization which has come to fruition in a beautifully crafted, scholarly and ultimately fine book . . ."--Phil Slade, Another Bird Blog

"Haunting, stunning, a schooling for any other scientific illustrator out there. Illustrations that go beneath the feathered surface of birds and explore how their internal anatomy functions in different settings--one impressively underwater--is a scientific feat in itself. Truly challenges the idea that art is separate from scientific inquiry."--Discover Magazine

"I challenge any reader to walk away from this book without being blown away by the remarkable and diverse nature of birds. Just when you think you have seen every trick Avian Anatomy has to throw at you, you turn the page and are greeted by the windpipe of Phonygammus keraudrenii (the Trumpet Manucode) or the tongue of Picus viridis (the Green Woodpecker)."--Samuel Barnett, Palaeosam's Blog

"Turning each page [is] an adventure. Particularly welcome is the large size with which many images are so boldly presented. . . . It's early in the year, but I doubt if 2013 will see a book published that is more interesting or fascinating or better done than Ms. van Grouw's. It is $49.95, worth every penny, a world-wide birding expedition like no other."--Jim Williams, WingNut, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A work of passion. . . . [Katrina van Grouw] has used her experience in ornithology and taxidermy to draw, over the course of her career, 385 beautiful illustrations of birds--all, as the book's title suggests, without their feathers. Her work shows the skeletal and muscular systems of 200 different species, from ostriches to hummingbirds, parrots to penguins, in life-like poses."--Megan Gambino, Smithsonian Magazine

"Part of the strength of this anatomical extravaganza is its breadth, spanning the entire range of birds from primping parrots to posturing penguins, all in lifelike poses. Every image is arresting, but several--like the great cormorant, grey heron and rook--are so vibrant that they seem to fly off the page."--Tim Birkhead, BBC Wildlife Magazine

"[A] remarkable blend of science and art, informative and factual but at the same time an expression of the beauty and wonder of life."--Andy Stoddart

"Katrina van Grouw's book The Unfeathered Bird is a unique wonder that has joined the bird book firmament and as soon as I saw it I recognized it to be a monumental achievement."--Ceri Levy, Caught by the River

"If you are a birder with an interest in how birds do what they do, this is an excellent book. . . . This would also make a great gift for a birding friend who seems to have every bird book in print."--Penny Miller, A Charm of Finches blog

"While it's tempting to say that The Unfeathered Bird reduces birding to its bare bones, and, indeed it is full of detailed drawings of the skeletal structures of birds as well as the musculature and other layers normally obscured by feathers, van Grouw does not give us just a bare bones look at birds. She fleshes out and feathers a wide variety of bird species with rich detail of their behavior, anatomy, and evolutionary adaptations."--Brad Sylvester, Examiner

"Van Grouw's text describing what she's showing in the artwork is equally wonderful and enlightening. The Unfeathered Bird reveals things about birds that you may never have imagined, like the coiled wind-pipe of the Trumpet Manucode. Amazing!"--Robert Mortensen, Birding is Fun!

"An illuminating and meticulously illustrated look at the brilliance of birds at the intersection of art, science and history, covering such intricate mysteries as how the ostrich lost two of its four toes and why the vulture diverged into radically different Old World and New World varieties. . . . Meticulously researched, gloriously illustrated, and absorbingly narrated, The Unfeathered Bird lives at the heart of that timeless temple where art and science meet to enrich one another with 'systematic wonder.'"--Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"This is a book that everyone interested in birds should own and in particular, every bird painter, sculptor, and carver should be required to have this book and study it well. Overall the level of detail in the text is well matched with the artwork resulting in a comprehensive whole that I think meets the authors goal of making this book a well done 'convergence of art and science; accessibility and erudition; old and new--without compromise and without apology.'"--John Carlson, Prairie Ice

"The Unfeathered Bird is visually arresting and utterly unique. But I had been expecting that. What really surprised me is how much I loved reading it. It's fascinating, relevant, and will deepen your appreciation for these amazing creatures."--Grant McCreary, Birder's Library

"A one-of-a-kind book. . . . This book is like a marriage of a technical ornithology book and an artist's portfolio but even better because the text reads in an entertaining fashion for anyone that is interested in birds."--Eva Matthews, Flying Mullet

"In a world where traditional science illustration is dying and being replaced by digital and other technologies, it's nice to see someone who has not succumbed--who still uses pencils and paintbrushes to create illustrations that are not only informative, but rise to the level of fine art. . . . The Unfeathered Bird deserves its place in the center of the coffee table: not only a must-have for the libraries of science artists, but as a classic for all lovers of natural history."--Christopher Sloan, Science Visualization

"Van Grouw's lifelong experience as fine artist and as a bird curator at the Natural History Museum, taxidermist and ringer have stood her in good stead in creating this hybrid marvel of history, art and ornithology. It is also readable, rather than filled with off-putting scientific terminology. . . . This acts as both a fine reference and an expert artist's portfolio. It is an original work by a prodigiously talented bird artist. . . . It deserves to be widely admired."--David Callahan, Birdwatch

"This magnificent volume will not only delight your eyes, it will change the way you see the natural world."--Bruce Fellman, Naturalist's Journal, Standard-Times

"A text spiked with quirky humour and replete with arcane bird lore and nuggets of natural history. . . . Monumentally impressive, 25 years in the making, The Unfeathered Bird is simply superb."--Adrian Barnett, New Scientist

"[A] seductive guide to birds and their bodies."--Rob Innes, Cage & Aviary Birds

"Remarkable, beautiful, unexpected, and you will never almost certainly have seen anything like it before. I've been fascinated by birds for most of my life, but after reading The Unfeathered Bird I'm looking at them in a slightly different way, seeing more than I did before, and I'm pretty sure that anyone--birder or non-birder--will react in much the same way. So get one for a friend too . . ."--Charlie Moores, Talking Naturally

"The book is a precious thing that any fan of birds, especially scientists, really needs to have a hard copy of. While it claims not to be an anatomy text, its illustrations provide ample opportunities to use it for that purpose. But really the point of owning all 287-plus pages is to bask in the warmth of true, pure appreciation for classic ornithology, which I found infectious. It is a book by and for bird lovers, but also for those that find the interface of art and science to be fascinating."--John Hutchinson, What's in John's Freezer

"[A] rewarding read, giving you a unique perspective on species that you thought you knew well."--Matt Merritt, Birdwatching Magazine

"The Unfeathered Bird makes for a solid addition to a birder's library as well as an attractive coffee table centerpiece. Unlike the photo mosaics that frequently inhabit such furniture, van Grouw's work may spark more than passing conversation as your guests explore the inner world of birds."--Steve Shultz, Carolina Bird Club Newsletter

"A world of skeletal pleasure."--Donna Schulman, ABA Blog

"[Van Grouw] appraised her subjects through trained, perceptive eyes, subjected them to the workings of a selective, imaginative brain, and then let her interpretations flow out through her pencil. The results are minor miracles: A Great Spotted Woodpecker, skinless and featherless except for its long tail, braces against a tree trunk. A European Robin, with worm but sans skin, crouches on the handle of a spade. A skeletal European Nightjar hawks insects in mid-air. Each is an avian Lazarus, returned to life after consignment to the specimen drawer."--BirdWatching Magazine

"Superb. . . . Ranging from ratites to tanagers, van Grouw's illustrations and accompanying explanations cut through the usual scientific jargon common to anatomy books and make the form and function of her subjects' bodies easily intelligible."--John Riutta, Bird Watcher's Digest

"All in all, this is a fascinating book, with masses of detailed description of birds' structure, and the author relates this to their function and ultimately ecology."--David Parkin, British Birds

"The illustrations are the undoubted highlight of the book, but the text is not to be overlooked. It is fluently written and I think happily achieves its aim of being accessible to the general reader. . . . [T]his is overall an impressive book. It is also unusual, deeply individual and probably best enjoyed on its own terms--there is, after all, nothing else quite like it around."--Joanne Cooper, Ibis

"I cannot help but draw some comparison with Leonardo da Vinci when it comes to van Grouw's amazing observation skills. . . . This is a fascinating book that is written and prepared by an exceptional observer, who possesses a thorough understanding of the subject material."--Jean Wilson, Biologist

"Rarely does a new bird book elicit the kind of excitement I felt when I first feasted by eyes on The Unfeathered Bird. . . . The effect of van Grouw's art is astounding: beneath the feathers, diverse birds show amazing anatomical similarity, the result of a highly restrictive structural blueprint dictated by biomechanical constraints of flight in the form of aerodynamic adaptations, still present in flightless birds. One can learn a great deal of the avian design by this approach, and although some form of many of these anatomical drawings are present in the older books and literature, this is the first modern attempt to bring a wide array of varied avian anatomy together under one cover. The result is splendid!"--Alan Feduccia, Emu

"A unique treatise on bird anatomy that should be in every natural history illustrator's library."--Bruce Bartrug, Guild of Natural Science Illustrators

"You can open this gorgeous volume to any page and quickly get lost in the revelations of what magnificent and wondrous creatures we share this planet with. It's truly a magnum opus."--Clay Christensen, Birdman of Lauderdale

"[W]hat sets this book apart for me is the . . . 250-odd pages that go beyond the generic to detail the form, function and evolution of different bird families, all illustrated with exquisitely detailed drawings that are the testament to many years of detailed study of birds, with and without flesh."--Simon Cillines, BTO News

"This extraordinary book, The Unfeathered Bird, is not easy to categorize. Its hefty size and price, artful design, and beautiful sepia drawings make it suitable for the coffee table. But the accompanying text offers so much information on the anatomy, behavior, and evolutionary relationships of birds that it can also serve as a mini-outline of current scientific knowledge."--Mary Jane Kaplan, Urban Audubon

"I have been looking for a book like this for a long time, and Katrina van Grouw's version is stunning."--Jazmine Miles-Long, Taxidermist

"Every blue moon a bird book comes out that changes everything. Given the plethora of books published on the subject of birds it has become increasingly hard to produce something that truly breaks the mould. Enter The Unfeathered Bird. I think that this book is a work of art. Katrina van Grouw should be applauded."--David Lindo, Urban Birder

"Solely considering emotion evoked by each image and its spare caption, unfettered by reading associated text, van Grouw's images flow across the page and show excellent anatomical detail. . . . All in all, this is a great book: the illustrations are fun to browse, it provides a good introduction to avian skeletal anatomy and the major bird groups, and it is interesting to read. The illustrations speak for themselves as a springboard for further study."--Donna L. Dittmann, Journal of Field Ornithology

"Van Grouw is uniquely qualified to write such a book; she really hits a home run with this one."--Choice

"The Unfeathered Bird is a book for bird lovers: artists, and scientists, alike."--Broad Conversation

"This is the quintessential labour of love; over 25 years in the conception, drawing and writing. It is a genuine life-work and will surely earn itself and its author a merited place in the history of the Art of the Natural World."--Tim Wootton, Wildlife Art

"Easily accessible to any reader, The Unfeathered Bird is for anyone with an appreciation of birds or bird art."--Wildlife

"The Unfeathered Bird, the culmination of a lifetime of work by the author, is a rare gem that would be equally at home on an artist's coffee table as it is on a biologist's bookshelf. One can simply browse the fascinating and sometimes macabre illustrations or engage in the highly readable but mentally stimulating text, and can certainly do both. The Unfeathered Bird is a landmark piece that successfully bridges art, science and history, in a beautiful and accessible package that will no doubt be treasured by anyone whose path it crosses."--Matthew Iles, Canadian Field Naturalist

"The first thing to say about this large book is that it is clearly a labor of love, the product of many years of thoughtful work. For this reason, if no other, it is intriguing. The second is that it is elegantly produced and imaginatively designed with hundreds of illustrations enlivened by a rich and detailed text."--Errol Fuller, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society

About the Author

Katrina van Grouw is a former curator of the ornithological collections at London's Natural History Museum, a taxidermist, an experienced bird bander, a successful fine artist, and a graduate of the Royal College of Art. She is the author of "Birds", a historical retrospective of bird art, published under her maiden name Katrina Cook. The creation of "The Unfeathered Bird" has been her lifetime's ambition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem in my collection of books on birds 7 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This fantastic book simply ought to be a must on everyone's bookshelf who has an interest in birds, art, ornithology and avian flight. If you just leaf through the book you are being presented with all these exquisite drawings and my first thoughts were a lot of admiration on how much hard work and time it must have taken to end up with such a unique book. Outstanding and most impressive. It is certainly not a book you "just" read, you study it and then you enjoy the fantastic drawings. Value for money ? Absolutely !"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have book for all wildlife artists 13 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Even if you know a lot about bird anatomy there will be drawings in this book that will amaze and delight you. If you are only curious about natural history this book is a box of visual treats. If you are a wildlife artist, this is invaluable, and will help you understand how particular birds 'fit together' and will surprise you into wanting to know more. This book is a lifetimes work written and drawn by someone who has dedicated her life to her subject and has worked in places that have enabled such an in-depth study, and then she has shared what she discovered. A treasure of a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Beautiful Book 2 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book as it was recommended by David Miller (the great fish artist) and....

..... It’s stunning!

Fascinating views of birds as you don’t usually see them.

The illustrations are superb, great detail, form & texture (and the originals must be even better) lovingly crafted by gifted hand and eye!

You can truly appreciate ‘a life’s work’ and that it was a long time in the making, put together with a deep passion for the subject - with considerable effort and many focussed hours, I would say...

The stripping of deceased birds via dissection, to investigate their anatomy. The boiling of bones to allow for full skeletal reconstruction, an art in itself, and the production of detailed studies, mostly in pencil, of the full process and stages thereof.

Giving you, up close and personal observations you just don’t get - unless you go to these measures yourself (maybe)
Highly recommended if you like art, birds, anatomy, quality illustrations and such...

For me: ***An inspirational reference to be looked at regularly***
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This book, which I understand has been a long time in the making, has wonderful drawings and an interesting and entertaining style in the text.

As a lay-person regarding the anatomy of birds I find it informative and a great book to open at any page and learn something of the featured birds.

It is great value at its price as both a reference book and a coffee table talking point
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book. 2 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Amazingly beautiful book, if you love birds or love art this work is a must for your book shelf. If you have a big shelf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual subject skillfully accomplished 15 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can highly recommend this innovative book. The subject matter may not be everyone's cup of tea but the skill with which the drawings have been done cannot be over emphasised. I particularly like the fact that the birds are depicted in natural poses which make them really come alive - a strange thing to say about a book which shows birds in an extreme state of undress. Buy it today and you won't regret it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 8 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book was beautiful and very informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good fast seller 6 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Book arrived as described,lovely book,.good fast seller.Thankyou.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
What a wonderful book, Thank you, very prompt delivery.
Published 25 days ago by Lee Gate
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Fantastic book for bird lovers and artists
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. L. K. Crossland
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Audrey Dunn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book
Published 1 month ago by Peter Mantle
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Fantastic book and worth every penny , pure quality throughout.
Published 1 month ago by steve rouse
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb book....took 25 years to complete
Published 1 month ago by Graham2918
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly excellent and unique
A book of superb quality! Truly excellent and unique! I would have paid a lot more for such a unique and class hard back book which will be looked after and passed on to future... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ade
5.0 out of 5 stars Quicker than Quoted Delivery
I ordered this for my boyfriend for his birthday after the lady who drew the pictures was on Springwatch. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sandie P
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book by a great friend.
I'm lucky to know Katrina personally. Visiting her last December gave me the chance to see some of the models for her book 'in life'.
Published 5 months ago by Szabolcs Kkay
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever!!!
This book is amazing. If you are an artist or just interested in the inner workings of nature this book is for you. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Diane Fisher
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