HOLY CATS! Charley Harper biology book find!

by | Oct 27, 2009 | about-books | 8 comments

Today is my day to channel Vintage Kids Books My Kid Loves.

My mom visited us a week or so ago, and brought with her a bunch of books she’d picked up at the library sale in her town. They were all animal encyclopedia books, for the most part, because those are Henry’s bread and butter (literally, sometimes, since he is the boy of, “I don’t need food! Just need books!”). He spent hours going through all of them, and at one point I sat next to him and started leafing through this great-looking Golden Book of Biology.

I looked at it for a minute or two, and had this feeling of, “Why do I want to decorate my entire house with the illustrations in this book?” I said, out loud, “The drawings in this book are amazing.” You know how I have a bit of a bird fetish; this book is a wonderland of amazing bird drawings. Then I flipped back to the front and saw “Illustrated by Charles Harper” and a little bell went off in my head. “I think…” I said tentatively, “That Charles Harper is this famous design illustrator guy. If it’s the guy I’m thinking of, his estate just reissued a bunch of board books, and last year Old Navy sold some coloring books of his images.” I checked on Amazon.com, and sure enough, it’s the same guy (later known as Charley Harper). Copies of this book start at $250.

I spent a good hour curled up in the corner, going through this book. Every page has multiple, full-color, amazing, beautiful illustrations. The birds, like I said, are phenomenal. Now I just have to figure out how I can relegate this book to my side of the bookcase, both to keep it in the pristine shape it’s in, and also so I can refer to it as the jumping-off point for every design decision I make, ever.


  1. liz

    love, love, love! i was going to say “especially those galapagos finches,” but actually i love all of the drawings. totally inspired to go to the next library sale i see.

  2. bethany actually

    Holy cats, indeed! I love serendipitous books finds like that.

  3. Julie

    Yeah, Liz, you should see the whole book. It’s amazing. There’s a drawing of Darwin studying turtles that’s incredible. I never think of Charley Harper doing people, but the people are great too. And things like the life cycle of a seed are just so beautiful.

  4. Anne

    What an amazing find! We have the Charley Harper ABC board book, which I’ve taken to more than Sam has. I just love staring at all the pictures, so I’d be hard-pressed to be torn away from this treasure trove. Enjoy!

  5. Anne

    Out of curiosity, I just checked abebooks.com, where copies of that are going for more than $1,000!!!

  6. Mo

    What a find! Gorgeous illustrations.

  7. Julie

    Anne, I think the $1,000 ones are for first editions, but still. Henry LOVES this book and I’ve had to be pretty protective of it. I do want him to look at it, but books have a tendency to get trashed here, so I’m hovering over this one.


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