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Western Bird Guide, Birds of the Rockies and West to the Pacific

Book title: Western Bird Guide, Birds of the Rockies and West to the Pacific
Author: Chester A. Reed, Harry F. Harvey, R. I. Brasher
Editor: Doubleday, Page & CO.
Publication year: 1913
Copyright: 1913, Chas. K. Reed, Worcester, Mass.
Format: 3 ½ X 5 ½
Type of cover: Soft leather and cardboard cover
Number of pages: 256
Retail price in 1913:
$1.00 cardboard cover,
$1.25 soft leather cover
Mailing cost: $0.05

It would be easy to say that the book was published in memory of Chester A. Reed’s life after his death, but it was actually the conclusion of work that he had started in the fall of 1912.

In a Worcester Sunday Telegram article published on July 31, 1960 commemorating Chester A. Reed’s life, his daughter Mertice Reed Haynes told that her father had spent a good part of the fall traveling across North America to study, draw and take pictures of birds. Even though he was the curator for the Worcester Natural History Society, this work was probably mostly related to the preparation for his next Bird Guide.

He passed away too early on December 16, 1912. His father, Charles K. Reed, took over the project and published “Western Bird Guide, Birds of the Rockies and West to the Pacific” on June 1, 1913.(1).

To finish the project, Charles K. Reed used the services of two artists to produce the drawings that Chester didn’t have time to do. Of the 230 drawings shown in the book, Chester produced 107. Mr. Harry F. Harvey and Mr. R. I. Brasher shared the other 123 drawings required for the project.

The book initiated the kind of “Field Guides” that we know today.
The format was the same as Chester’s other Bird Guides. The presentation order was more scientific and showed the species following the Order and the Families of birds.

There are other new parts in this book. The drawing boards showed more than one species to allow people to compare similar species of the same family.

By reducing the descriptive texts and removing the information about the bird’s song, Chester was able to provide descriptions of close to 550 bird species as well as 230 drawings boards showing close to 460 different bird species in a 250 pages, 3 x 5 inches book.

If Chester A. Reed had lived longer, he might have adapted the two first Bird Guides to this new format.

In this presentation, you can compare many drawings taken from the book with the originals kept in the Reed family’s archives.

Editors of the First Edition

Charles K. Reed was the editor for all of Chester’s books. However, considering the business relationship between Charles and Doubleday, Page & CO, (1) it can be hard to determine who edited the first edition of Chester’s book.

In December 1912, Charles K. Reed signed a first partnership contract with Doubleday, Page & Company. It is then legitimate to think that the first edition of “Western Bird Guide, Birds of the Rockies and West to the Pacific” was published by Doubleday, Page & Company.

You can consult the slideshow of the presentation.

  1. (1) For more information, consult the “For the Most Curious” section.