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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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They say not to judge a book by its cover. But with the cover of "The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black," what you see is what you get.

And to be honest, the picture of a winged-humanoid skeleton, with every bone carefully catalogued, was enough to reel me into checking out this book. It's a pseudo-biography of a fictional man who devoted himself to the scientific study of ancient mythical creatures -- and while E.B. Hudspeth spins a fine fictional biography, the illustrations are what really took my breath away.

The book tells the story of Spencer Black, a 19th-century physician whose father was a grave-robbing professor of anatomy. That fascination with anatomy carried over into Black's career -- first he became fascinated by transformation in the insect world, and then by the workings of the human body. But when he encounters the corpse of a "fawn-child," his research took an unexpected turn.

After that, Dr. Black came up with a shocking, controversial theory: that mythical creatures were not only real, but were ancestors of humanity. According to him, birth defects were just those ancient genetic traits trying to resurface. So he tried to create his own "mythical" creatures by grafting together body parts from different animals -- which, unsurprisingly, the scientific community was unimpressed by.

The late 19th century is a perfect era for the fictional Dr. Black -- it was a time of massive technological advances and strange new pseudosciences. Just think of the Fiji Mermaid. So while "The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black" is an entirely fictional work, EB Hudspeth manages to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality -- you can almost believe it is a biography of a real person.

He also does an excellent job writing a pseudo-biography, exploring the events in Black's life (failed surgery, death of his children) that fueled his obsessions. Hudspeth even writes letters to/from Black, as well as a journal entry from his brother Bernard about his first, horrifying "graft."

But the most fascinating part of the book is not the fictional biography, but the "The Codex Extinct Animalia." In this, we can see beautifully detailed drawings of sphinxes, harpies, fluttering multi-finned mermaids, dragons (serpentine and regular), pegasi, and countless other mythical creatures. Not only are these the most realistic depictions of mythical creatures I have ever seen, but they are the most scientifically plausible.

Hudspeth achieves this by examining these creatures down the muscles, organs and bones, which are catalogued in painstaking detail. He even catalogues them by different orders and fictional families -- for instance, the Siren Oceanus is a member of the family Sirenidae and the genus Siren, with internal lungs covered in gills.

"The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black" is an exquisite piece of work -- a solid, sometimes horrifying pseudo-biography, followed by exquisitely realistic depictions of mythic creatures. If nothing else, read this for Hudspeth's beautiful illustrations.
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on 30 December 2014
I'm so annoyed with this book. It's looks so gorgeous from the cover. But there is an old saying....
I'm not gonna lie I bought this for the drawings. I waned unctuous Victorian looking creatures bodies and creepy skeletons. I don't care about building up mythologies of fictional people's lives. But therein lies the kicker; most of this book is fiction. The drawings are the smallest part. And they suck. They really suck. It is so badly drawn I can't express. The heads are drawn out of proportion, (doesn't the 'illustrator' know that the number one rule of drawing heads it that eyes are half way down the face not up in the forehead?) the faces are laughable, creatures do not look seamlessly joined, they look like the illustrator has copied a snake say and then a lion and stopped drawing where they should meet. The hands are classic 'can't draw hands' style hand drawings. It's terrible. I have attached a picture for you to see. Look how flat and weird the hair looks! And it's so poorly presented inside. As i said, I'm proper annoyed at this book!
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on 19 June 2013
The Resurrectionist is a book that compiles diary entries from a ficticious 'Dr. Spencer Black' as he ascends from childhood into adulthood as a master surgeon, and then back down again as he begins to enter madness, believing that he can recreate the long-since-dead mythological beasts.

The first half of the book consists of his diary entries, all of which are quite well written, if bordering on the improbible at times. While the second half shows anatomical and skeletal diagrams for how mythological beasts would have been 'constructed'.

If you're interested in mythologcal animals and anatomy, I'd suggest getting this book, even if just as an odd curiosity to pick up and thumb through the nice diagrams.
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on 26 December 2015
I really, really loved this book and I was gave it as a gift so couldnt even look at it properly. But it looked fascinating, a bit of quirky imagination and drawings that I thought were lovely and don't see anything wrong with them.
What I loved about the book was that if you remove the external cover, the print on the hardback is that of an old book. I love that touch.
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on 1 June 2013
Author E.B. Hudspeth, has, through journals, newspaper reports, diaries and letters, made this pseudo-history seem almost real. Thanks to an unconventional youth as a grave-robbing ghoul, Spencer Black was destined to become a scientist, obsessed with reanimation. Parents eh? Black's father unwittingly started something that would consume his son for a lifetime with tragic consequences.

This book charts a talented doctor and scientist's descent from sanity, respectability and professionalism to obsession and madness, all sadly at the expense of his wife and children.

Hudspeth has cleverly juxtaposed a story about ghouls and mythology with the puritan values of nineteenth century America. Couple the story of the first part with the anatomical artwork and this is a very clever idea expertly executed.

It is a little thin on story, but that is perhaps a deliberate ploy to make Black more enigmatic and mysterious. Suffice to say, I read this quickly and was hooked throughout. This is a Gothic, tragic, and at times, shocking work of fiction. The artwork is beautiful as well as thought provoking; Hudspeth should be applauded for tackling a controversial subject of vivisectionist work and science against the backdrop of a highly moralistic society. Genius to madness has been covered before, but this is a moving and understated work where the realms of myth and fantasy meet the real world.
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on 16 July 2015
Bought for a friend for christmas and she loves it. For someone whos lovds mythical creatures she adores it. My other friend bought one, its where i first saw it, there both artists and this helps them improve there art work.

Interesting read
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There was a time when any rich landowner worth his salt would build himself a folly, a bit of architectural madness designed to improve the view from his house or garden. Some of them are absolutely stunning - a fake castle built on the hills above or a bizarre three-sided tower looming at the edge of the grounds. The are all about appearance. They don't do anything apart from sit there and look wonderful. But this doesn't detract from their value.

I would say that a book I've been sent for review recently is the literary equivalent of one of those follies. It is magnificent, if practically hollow. The Resurrectionist is the first book by E. B. Hudspeth. It is a book of two parts. The first is the fictional biography of a late Victorian medical man, who starts as someone with a brilliant reputation as a surgeon helping to repair deformities. But over time he comes to believe that birth defects hark back to earlier forms of life now lost, forms that we retain in folk memories as mythical beasts like centaurs, harpies and satyrs. As this idea takes hold we see the surgeon, Spencer Black, descending to become a sideshow artist in a carnival, displaying first preserved freaks of nature (common enough in sideshows of the time), then creating his own fake corpses of hybrid creatures before finally plunging into the abyss of attempting to create these creatures alive. It is a dark and often unpleasant history.

The second part of the book consists of multiple anatomical drawings of these 'real' mythical beasts, with detailed skeletons, partially muscled cutaways and complete images of what they may have looked like when they roamed the Earth. I was a little disappointed there wasn't more narrative here. The problem, for instance, with flying horses and people is that they have far too much weight for the size of wing/musculature to ever lift - but there was no explanation of how this was got around.

However, there is no doubt that the drawings are beautifully done, with a totally straight face on the part of the author. It is truly a magnificent folly - but for me it doesn't quite work. The problem is that, unless you are into anatomy, once you've seen one detailed drawing of a skeleton, you've seen them all. So the second half of the book is worth little more than a quick flick through.

As for the first half, it is very neatly done with faked up posters and newspaper cuttings and sketches - but the problem here is that is almost too well done. What we have is a sober short biography of a Victorian character - but because this is how it is presented it has none of the dramatic drive of a good bizarre novel. I had to force myself not to skip some bits, because it was just a bit, well, worthy. Of course it isn't really - like the folly it is a cunning, intricate fake - but the trouble is it is a cunning intricate fake of something which is, despite the bizarre subject, rather dull.

Overall then, a brilliant idea, superbly executed, it just doesn't quite work as a piece of fiction for me, and I'm afraid the anatomical section, while briefly entertaining, did not hold my attention.
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on 23 October 2014
Easily one of the most haunting books I've read lately. It takes a simple premise and gives you a brilliant story of scientific genius and its subsequent fall into madness and despair, while creating a sense of unease by telling you only just enough and allowing your imagination to run rampant. The collection of 'zoological' illustrations is astounding and in addition to being a fantastic read, the book makes for an amazing idea source for artists and writers wanting to work with mythical creatures.
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on 19 August 2014
This is a gorgeous book; a well of macabre creativity and mythological detail. The marriage of science, folklore and art is beautifully executed and richly detailed, making it an excellent gift for aficionados of the occult. I received my copy as a Christmas present and it looks equally magnificent on my bookcase and my coffee table.
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on 12 June 2014
This book is really cool and I love all of the illustrations inside. Would definitely recommend as an odd curiosity for book collectors :)
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