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Birds of Eastern North America

Book title: Birds of Eastern North America
Author: Chester A. Reed
Editor: Doubleday, Page & CO.
Publication year: 1912
Copyright: 1912, Chas. K. Reed, Worcester, Mass.
Format: 5 x 7
Type of cover: Dark green hard cardboard cover with golden title and black subtitle
Number of pages: 464 pages, 408 color drawings
Retail price in 1912: $3.00
Mailing cost: $0.15



Chester A. Reed had been the curator for the Worcester Natural History Society for 4 years. All books that he had published since the beginning of his career were aimed to amateurs and young beginners.

This book was the first one to feature birds from East of the Rockies according to the classification suggested by “The American Ornithologist’ Union.” Chester usually focused his information on specific aspects of the birds to help identify them. In this case, it was mostly a reference book. It shortly described each “Family” in general, along with a few descriptions specific to some species. Each drawing was linked to a description of the bird, male and female, and its nest, eggs and area of dispersion. He completed the information with the bird’s dimensions (length, width, length of the tail, etc.).

The book was a challenge for Chester A. Reed, because it required a lot of writing. The drawings shown in the book were mostly taken from other publications that he had published since 1909. Each species was shown individually. The same drawings were only available in “American Game Birds,” published the same year. They allowed comparing similar species in one drawing. The book was a prelude to “Western Bird Guide, Birds of the Rockies and West to the Pacific,” which was published in 1913.

In the same chapter, Chester included the list “Birds of New England.” It gave information on the species living in the region, their nesting period, and more. We can find the same list in “Wild Birds of New England, 1912.”

As for most of Chester A. Reed’s books, we can find ads for his other books at the end of the book. The ad for the guide “Land Birds” is particularly interesting. It mentions that, since 1906, the “Bird Guide Part 2, Land Birds East of the Rockies” was reprinted about every six months. Over 300,000 copies had been sold. This would average 50,000 copies per year for that edition. Chester A. Reed published 25 books in his life, without including the publication of the magazine “American Ornithology for the Home and School.”

It would be hard to know if the first edition was published by Charles K. Reed, Chester’s father, or by “Doubleday, Page & Company.” (2) Their business relationship can be confusing. In this case, there is no confusion. The copyright clearly specifies that “Doubleday, Page & Company” was the official editor of the first edition.

Fun Fact

In correspondence between Charles K. Reed and Mr. Frank M. Chapman on February 12, 1902 (3), Charles refers to a book that Chester A. Reed was working on. The title of the book was “Birds of Eastern North America.” There was no chance that Chester would have been thinking of the book published in 1912. At the time, Chester was planning the publication of his “Bird Guides,” which were published in November 1905. (4)

You can consult the slideshow of the presentation.

  1. (1) For more information, consult the slideshow for the book “Bird Guide Part 2, Land Birds East of the Rockies, 1905.”
  2. (2) For more information, consult the “For the Most Curious” section.
  3. (3) For more information, consult the slideshow for the book “Color Key to North American Birds.”
  4. (4) For more information, consult the “For the Most Curious” question 1.