Book that took 25 years to complete is real high-flier

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A book which was 25 years in the making is receiving rave reviews around the world.

Aylesbury artist Katrina van Grouw started work on The Unfeathered Bird when she was an undergraduate art student.

The jargon-free book about bird anatomy bridges art, science and history –it is aimed at the general reader and contains 300 drawings representing 200 species.

Mrs van Grouw lives in Northern Road, Aylesbury, with her husband Hein, a curator at the Natural History Museum in Tring, and did most of the drawing at home.

She said: “When I was an art student most of my pictures were of living birds, and I felt there should be an anatomical reference book for artists to see what goes on underneath the surface.”

Mrs van Grouw is keen to stress that no birds were harmed in the making of the book, and that all the skeletons she used were from birds that had already died. They include just about every bird you can think of – penguins, hawks, hummingbirds, kites and robins. And her husband helped prepare the skeletons to enable her to draw them.

Since the book was published by Princeton University Press she has received enthusiastic praise from paleontologists, scientists, sculptors, poets, “even people who don’t like birds,” she said, adding, “it’s incredible the amount of attention it’s had.”

In addition to the stunning illustrations Mrs van Grouw wrote the text and designed the book.

The moment she held it in her hands after so many years of hard work was unforgettable.

She said: “It took a while to sink in. It was more beautiful than I had expected.”

The book has a glossy cover, and the illustrations are reproduced in a sepia tone on a cream background. Every illustration is across a double page spread with text alongside.

Mrs van Grouw has an interest in all natural history and is already preparing her next tome, which will be about domestic animals.

In fact she’s just returned from Crufts where she did a lot of research.

The Unfeathered Bird is available from bookshops and Amazon.