Biology & Natural History

Baker, J. A. | The Peregrine.

  • First edition, first impression of this masterpiece of 20th century nature writing, cited by Ted Hughes, Andrew Motion, Werner Herzog, and many others as one of the most important books of its kind. Rare in such lovely condition in the dust jacket.

    J. A. Baker (1926-1987) was a librarian who spent ten years tracking peregrine falcons in coastal Essex during the 1950s and 60s. This, the first of his two published works, distills his observations of the birds and their changing habitat into a lyrical account of a single year, beginning in autumn with the birds’ migration from Scandinavia and ending with their return north in spring.

    “The book records these months of chase in all their agitated repetitiveness. It describes them in language so intense and incantatory, and yet also so amok with beauty, that the act of bird-watching becomes akin to a shamanic ritual... Baker's most remarkable achievement in The Peregrine, to my mind, is the quality of deep strangeness with which he invests the East Anglian landscape. His Essex - 50 miles from London, aggressively farmed, densely peopled - is somehow made as mysterious, elemental, wild and remote as anywhere in the world. Like Ted Hughes, Baker is able to evoke a deep Englishness: to make a long-inhabited landscape seem timeless and mythic” (MacFarlane, "Extreme Styles of Hunting", The Guardian, May 21, 2005).
  • London: Collins, 1967.

    Octavo. Original black boards, title to spine gilt, green endpapers. With the dust jacket. Spine slightly rolled, mild sunning of the upper edges of the boards, faint spotting to the edges of the text block. An excellent copy in the fresh jacket that is just a little faded along the spine panel with a very short closed split to the lower panel.