Oiseaux de France

by Peter Allen

At the turn of the 1900's the mayor of Hamonville, a small town in eastern France, wrote a book that culminated his lifetime's preoccupation with birds called the Atlas de poche des oiseaux de France. At his home in the neighbouring châteaux de Manonville, Baron Jean Charles Louis Tardiff d'Hamonville assembled one of the most complete ornithological and oological collections of the period. A great number of glass fronted cabinets & wooden chests of drawers filled with stuffed birds and blown eggs were the repositories of treasures gathered from several continents. Outside in the château's grounds were aviaries of song birds and ponds stocked with exotic waterfowl, and along the paths storks & cranes with clipped wings kept the Baron company all year round.

The Baron determined a bird's worth by using a scale progressing from utile, to indifférent, nuisible and finally très nuisible. These categories reflect man's relationship with birds and nature in general at a time when ruling classes viewed nature as a larder to plunder and the text often reflects these internal conflicts. He had to be clear about to which camp it was that he belonged–he couldn't have his cake and eat it, avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre.

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Peter Allen also lives in the Lorraine region of France where he works as an illustrator for publishers on both sides of the channel. He had a copy of d'Hamonville's book for a long time before discovering that they were pretty much neighbours; a coincidence that was all the persuasion needed to make this book.

The images in Peter's Oiseaux de France are made with stencils, or pochoir in French. The process has a history that can be traced back to medieval France and has generally been used as a means of adding colour to black & white woodcuts. In this book the images are made without any printed outlines; the acrylic colours applied in up to eight separate layers describe at once the shapes of the birds and the colourful detail they contain.

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Peter Allen pochoir

For the sake of Peter's sanity this edition, set in Nicholas Cochin type and printed on a heavyweight Zerkall mould-made paper, is limited to 130 copies, containing 80 pages & measuring 370 x 265 mm of which:

110 copies are bound in a French cloth and pochoired papers. About £325 (£275 pre-publication).

20 special copies are available. Details available on request.

Published towards the end of 2018.