Other People’s Bird Books: Mise en abîme

Autographs don’t thrill me the way I think they’re supposed to.

This copy of Stiles and Skutch was a gift from our friend Ruth, who on a visit to Costa Rica in February 1994 had the title page signed by the 90-year-old author and — a neat touch — his wife. I cherish the book for that simple association, of course, but even more for the photos Ruth pasted in.

Here Ruth and Skutch examine plate 46. Her handwritten annotations on the facing key indicate that on that day, she and the ornithologist had seen the Shining Honeycreeper, the Green Honeycreeper, and the Speckled Tanager, among many other species.

And here:

Alexander Skutch autographs the very book into which Ruth, just visible, I think, in the background, inserted this photo.

I saw these pictures when Ruth gave me the book, and asked whether she didn’t want to keep them. No, she said, they belong to the book. She was right, and I’m glad.