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Walter Potter's Curious World of Taxidermy
     

Walter Potter's Curious World of Taxidermy

by Pat Morris
 

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Welcome to Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter’s fantasy world of rabbit schoolchildren, cigar-smoking squirrels and exemplary feline etiquette in Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy…
 
Walter Potter (1835–1918), a British country taxidermist of no great expertise, built anthropomorphic taxidermy tableaux that

Overview

Welcome to Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter’s fantasy world of rabbit schoolchildren, cigar-smoking squirrels and exemplary feline etiquette in Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy…
 
Walter Potter (1835–1918), a British country taxidermist of no great expertise, built anthropomorphic taxidermy tableaux that became famous icons of Victorian whimsy, including his masterpiece The Death&Burial of Cock Robin. His tiny museum in Bramber, Sussex, was crammed full of multi-legged kittens, two-headed lambs, and a bewildering assortment of curios. Potter’s inspired and beguiling tableaux found many fans in the contemporary art world: it was reported that a £1M bid by Damien Hirst to keep the collection intact was refused when the museum finally closed. Here, perhaps for the last time, many important pieces from the collection are showcased and celebrated with new photographs of Potter’s best-loved works. Darkly witty and affecting, Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy makes a charming, whimsical (and yes, slightly morbid) gift.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
06/01/2014
Walter Potter (1835–1918), who was not related to Beatrix Potter nor were they contemporaries, created intricate tableaux, many based on nursery rhymes, out of taxidermied animals. Prime examples of Victorian-era taxidermy, his works delighted generations of visitors to the museum in Bramber, Sussex, where Potter lived and worked all his life. Though the collection is no longer intact, readers have the opportunity to delight virtually in Potter's scenes through biologist and taxidermy expert Morris's book. While it may seem a bit grotesque to use dead animals to illustrate nursery rhymes, it will most likely strike the majority of readers as eccentric and amusing. Morris narrates a brief overview of Potter's life history and interprets each tableau depicted in Ebenstein's photographs. This narration adds welcome context to the reader's own perception of Potter's work, illuminating details that would have been easily accessible to Potter's Victorian audiences but require a bit of translation for today's viewers. Readers for whom taxidermy is a new interest will also enjoy Melissa Milgrom's Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy. VERDICT A fascinating look at a singular collection and one that nicely balances text and photographs. Teen and adult readers with quirky senses of humor will surely appreciate this book.—Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Ctr., Laramie, WY
Publishers Weekly
05/12/2014
Biologist Morris (A History of Taxidermy) and Ebenstein, Morbid Anatomy blogger, deliver an engaging if macabre catalog of the oeuvre of Walter Potter (1835-1918), Victorian master of the art of taxidermy. A celebrity in the art of taxidermy during its peak popularity, Potter taught himself to preserve lifeless animals at a young age, posing them in dioramas for his sister's amusement. His best known piece, "Death & Burial of Cock Robin", features close to 100 stuffed birds. The bulk of the catalog focuses on the process of preservation with details on how to skin toads, as well as his sideshow of freaks including a rabbit with tusks. Like embalmed Beanie Babies, he arranged squirrels and rats in scenarios that illustrate lyrics of his day and shed light on everyday life in Dickensian England. Long after his death the museum moved to Cornwall, and recently Bonham's auctioned off the contents to collectors around the world. Soft-hearted readers may be relieved to find that most of the animals died of natural causes or, at any rate, were not destined to live long. Both whimsical and informative, this bizarrely intriguing catalog revives an outdated Victorian art form to spark the interests of modern audiences. Color photos. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy is one of the most important books I’ve read on Victorian taxidermy in months. It’s like Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, but with squirrels.”—Gary Shteyngart, T Magazine, The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780698175396
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/17/2014
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
144
File size:
72 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy is one of the most important books I’ve read on Victorian taxidermy in months. It’s like Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, but with squirrels.”—Gary Shteyngart, T Magazine, The New York Times

Meet the Author

DR. PAT MORRIS is a biologist, and formerly a senior lecturer in zoology at Royal Holloway, University of London, specializing in mammal ecology, particularly hedgehogs and dormice. He is the author of twenty books about natural history and taxidermy and has published more than 150 scientific papers and magazine articles on natural history topics. He first visited Walter Potter’s museum in Bramber in 1955 and thirty years later became a technical adviser to its owners. With their help, he gained an unrivaled knowledge of Potter’s work, and first published as Walter Potter and His Museum of Curious Taxidermy in 2008, a record of a unique collection now dispersed by its sale in 2003.

Photographer JOANNA EBENSTEIN is an artist and producer based in New York. She runs the Morbid Anatomy blog and the Morbid Anatomy Library in Brooklyn, which makes available to the public her collection of art, ephemera, books, and curiosities.

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