The Bird Book

Book title: The Bird Book
Author: Chester A. Reed
Editor: Chas K. Reed
Publication year: 1914
Copyright: Chas. K. Reed, 1914
Format: 7 X 10 inches
Type of cover: Dark green fabric cover
Number of pages: 450
Retail price in 1914: $3.00
Mailing cost: $0.15


This book was first published on December 12, 1914, a few days before the second anniversary of Chester A. Reed’s death, on December 16, 1912. Charles K. Reed could have published the book to commemorate Chester’s death. The book doesn’t have any introduction or preface to justify the publication in Chester’s name. The reader is immediately immersed in the topic.

Most importantly, the publication is probably a result of the subtle business relationship between Chester A. Reed and his father, Charles K. Reed. Chester was the author, but his father owned the publication rights for all books and drawings published by him.

In March 1914, Charles signed a contract with “Doubleday, Page & CO” for the sale of his book edition company, with Chester A. Reed as the main author (1). A note in Carrie B. Reed’s files mentions that many printing boards for the book “North American Bird Eggs” had been destroyed. It was then the perfect time to re-use the book’s contents and add a publication to Charles’ collection. That way, he could balance out the losses for the publication of “North American Birds Eggs.”

This book has a particular format. It is larger than any other book published by Chester. The usual format is fairly small. This one measures 7 inches by 10 inches, and it was among the most expensive books in Charles’ collection. We have to remember that, a few months later, Charles would receive royalties for every book sold, according to his agreement with Doubleday, Page & CO.

The title of the book is subtle and leads us to thinking that Chester A. Reed was the author. It features over 700 color drawings, as well as a few hundreds pictures of nests and eggs taken by Chester A. Reed.

But Chester A. Reed did not produce all the drawings. Charles used many drawings produced by Mr. Harry F. Harvey for the edition of the book (2). The book’s color drawings can be separated into 3 categories. The drawings in the first category have been produced by Chester between 1911 and 1912. They are mainly drawings of shore birds and birds of prey taken from the books “American Game Birds, 1912” and “Western Bird Guide, 1913.” The drawings in the second category had been produced by Mr. Harry F. Harvey for the publication of the book “Western Bird Guide, 1913.” The drawings in the third category showed land birds produced by Chester between 1909 and 1910 for the book “Bird Guide Part 2, Land Birds revised, 1909.”

However, most texts, as well as nests and eggs pictures, were an exact copy of the book “North American Birds Eggs.” Charles only had to work on the layout to produce one of the best looking and best illustrated books of the time in ornithology.

It was the last book to be published under Chester A. Reed’s name. The printing quality, at the time, was good and allowed the readers to enjoy Chester A. Reed’s drawings. The book is, still today, a great gift for ornithology enthusiasts. Very few books describe so many species of birds and their nest, along with a life-size picture of the eggs.

Charles K. Reed was a businessman. The book was published in the United States with the title “The Bird Book.” At the same time, it was published in Canada with the title “Canadian Bird Book” by “The Musson Book Company,” a long-time partner for Chester A. Reed’s Canadian publications.

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