Regular readers will be familiar with Vanna Bartlett, as I regularly blog about trips to the Norwich garden that her and Jeremy maintain for wildlife, seeing a number of new insects, many of them bees, in the process. I first met them through the Friends of Earlham Cemetery, and we have also been on several wildlife-related trips out. Anyway, Vanna is an excellent wildlife artist, and waas due to celebrate the release of a new Arthropod-themed book at Natural Surroundings next month. Covid-19 has scuppered that, meaning no release event, no bookshops to browse in and manynot accepting new stock. I don't usually review books on my blog but am happy to make an exception for this one, so please see below for my review (which is actually written for the forthcoming NNNS Natterjack) and checkout the website https://arthropedia.co.uk/arthropedia/ for more details and a link to order online if you like the look of it.
Being familiar with Vanna Bartlett’s wildlife artwork (and having also visited the wildlife garden that her and her husband are rightly proud of), I was excited to receive an advance copy of Arthropedia to review. As the title suggests, the subjects of the book are terrestrial arthropods (insects, arachnids, isopods and myriapods), most of them Norfolk species and a good percentage seen in Vanna’s garden. This localism is also extended to include the use of Norfolk-based designers and printers in the production of the book.
The central thread of Arthropedia is a series of beautiful colour wildlife plates, one for each letter of the alphabet. The connection to the letter varies, sometimes it is straightforward (e.g. B = Bees), sometimes the link is a word (E = Emperors features a butterfly, moth and dragonfly) and occasionally the link is more obscure (K = Kaleidoscope, featuring a large mixture of species displayed in a kaleidoscopic fashion). These pictures have all been worked up from the author's own photographs along with field sketches and really capture the character of the organism. Each species is numbered and referred to in the text, which is also interspersed with many black-and-white drawings to illustrate additional species or aspects of behaviour. There are also additional topographic illustrations showing the different parts of the species referred to.
Whilst this book could stand alone as a volume of wildlife art, to treat it as such overlooks the large amount of information included between plates. The passionate narrative of the author and artist used to describe finding and observing the species illustrated serves not only to connect with and inform the reader, but also to encourage him or her to seek out and value these species. This is done in part by the accompanying descriptions, but also more overtly in the final chapter that describes in depth the setting up and planting of the author’s wildlife garden.
Due to the current pandemic the launch event for Arthropedia has had to be cancelled, and there is a risk that this wonderful book will not receive the attention that it deserves - I heartily recommend that you seek out a copy. and can order a copy direct from Mascot Media via
James Emerson (March 2020)