(Hosking, Eric) 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 works of its kind. Uncommon in such nice condition in the dust jacket. This copy from the library of eminent bird photographer Eric J. Hosking, with his owl bookplate.

    Author 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, distils 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.

    Born in 1909, Eric Hosking developed his love for nature and photography at an early age. He received a Kodak Box Brownie at age eight, and graduated to a plate camera by age ten, using it to photograph birds. He lost his job in car sales at the beginning of the Great Depression, but an opportunity arose when the Sunday Dispatch asked him to get a shot of an elephant seal at the London Zoo. For several years he supplemented his income by photographing weddings and children (including the young princesses for Country Life in 1935), but by 1937 he was a full-time nature photographer, the first person in Britain to make their living in this field.

    Hosking was intrepid in his pursuit of wild birds. He designed his own hides and made a number of important technical advances, among them the use of the flash in nature photography. His most famous photo is the “technically perfect” shot of a barn owl carrying prey that he captured using an electronic flash in 1948 (Sage, “A Photographer in Hiding”, New Scientist, September 1979). He is widely credited with developing wildlife photography into a mature artform.

    During his sixty-year career Hosking’s photographs were published thousands of times around the world. He authored thirteen books, including the autobiography An Eye for a Bird, and he lectured, wrote for popular periodicals, and appeared on television. Hosking was president of the Nature Photographic Society and served as vice-president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Ornithologists’ Union. He was awarded the RSPB’s Gold Medal in 1974, and three years later received an OBE.

  • London: Collins, 1967.

    Octavo. Original black boards, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. Bookplate of Eric J. Hosking. Tail of spine a little bumped, lightly rubbed at the edges. An excellent copy in the jacket that is also a little faded on the spine panel and edges, and lightly rubbed at the extremities.