Jonathan Cape, August 2013. 592 pages, hardcover, colour photographs, colour illustrations
Cocker, Mark, David Tipling.
There are 10 500 species of bird worldwide and wherever they occur people marvel at their extraordinary beauty and wonder at their powers of flight. We also trap and eat birds of every kind. Today one species, the domestic chicken, is the single biggest source of protein for all of us. Yet birds have not just been good to eat. Their feathers, which keep us warm or adorn our costumes, give birds unique mastery over the heavens. Throughout history their flight has inspired the human imagination so that birds are embedded in our religions, folklore, music and arts. Today their images are everywhere – on our national emblems, flags, stamps, coins, banknotes – and bird imagery entwines the political rhetoric of freedom and informs our vocabularies of birth and death.
Birds and People explores and celebrates this extraordinary relationship. Eight years in the making and vast in both scope and scale, Birds and People draws upon Mark Cocker’s forty years of observing and thinking about birds. Part natural history and part cultural study, it describes and maps the entire spectrum of our engagements with birds, drawing in themes of history, literature, art, cuisine, language, lore, politics and the environment. In the end, this is a book as much about us as it is about birds. Birds and People has been stunningly illustrated by one of Europe’s best wildlife photographers, David Tipling, who has travelled in thirty-nine countries on seven continents to produce a breathtaking and unique collection of photographs.
Birds and People is as important for its visual riches as it is for its groundbreaking content. Birds and People is also exceptional in that the author has solicited contributions from people worldwide. Personal anecdotes and stories have come from more than 600 individuals of eighty-one different nationalities. They range from university academics to Mongolian eagle hunters, and from Amerindian shamans to some of the most celebrated writers of our age. The sheer multitude of voices in this global chorus means that Birds and People is both a source book on why we cherish birds and a powerful testament to their importance for all humanity..