Peterson Signed Title PageJust as my parents can recall their first television sets and marvel at how I have never known life without it, and we can all remember our first cell phone while our children ping from iPhone to iPad and think nothing of video chatting with friends thousands of miles away, it’s hard for most of us living today to fathom a time when you couldn’t just pick up a birding book and identify that cool water bird you saw at the lake the other day. But before Roger Tory Peterson published his first field guide for the amateur birder in 1934, there was no such paradigm for the general public to connect with the world around them.

Field guides have changed little since their inception and with such lavishly illustrated plates, Peterson's initial publication represented a huge risk for his publishers. But people’s impulse to name and categorize everything in their world persevered. When Peterson’s book was published, the initial run of 2000 copies sold out in a week. Thus began not only a field guide empire but the naturalist movement itself. Prior to Peterson’s birding books, species identification happened when your dog retrieved what you shot and killed. If the unlucky specimen was not familiar to you, unless you were willing to take it to the taxidermist and then the local ornithologist, its classification most likely ended up in one of two categories: tasty or not. But armed with the day’s most powerful binoculars and a Peterson birding guide, starting in the 1930s people could begin to observe the natural world without impacting it... or eating it (and PETA cheers?!). A new movement was created. Since then, Houghton Mifflin estimates as many as 10 million copies of the Peterson’s field guide series have been sold worldwide. That’s like going Platinum ten times over.

Roger Tory Peterson in the field. Photo taken for Life Magazine, 1961

Roger Tory Peterson in the field. Photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1961

Since most of us are familiar with Peterson through his guide books, it is with no small amount of excitement that I share this bit of news with you: This weekend, 500 of Peterson’s original paintings and 200 of his wildlife photographs are being released by his estate and are going up for auction for the first time ever. Interested New Yorkers can attend a preview of the works this Friday, September 7, 2012, at 12:00pm - 8:00pm at The Arader Galleries at 1016 Madison Avenue (you lucky, lucky dogs!) The auction is in two parts the following day and non-New York bidders may jump in the action online through Guernsey’s auction site (what was I saying about not being able to fathom life without the internet? How quickly we.) So bust open those piggy banks and get your auction hat on. Go own a piece of history!

The Public Preview:

Friday, September 7, 2012,

12:00pm - 8:00pm EDT

The Arader Galleries

1016 Madison Avenue

New York, NY

The Auction:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Session I: 10:00am EDT

Session II: 2:00pm EDT

Join the Auction Remotely: Internet Bidding through

Order a Limited Edition Catalog through Guernsey’s Auction House

Among the paintings being offered up for auction:

Two Ducks

Lot 1. Two Ducks. Cover art for World of Birds, 1964

King Penguins, Magellanic Penguin

Lot 144. King Penguins, Magellanic Penguin, 1979

Griffon, European Black Vulture

Lot 131. Griffon, European Black Vulture from Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of the World, 1968, Vol. I

South Texas Specialties

Lot 309. South Texas Specialties from Field Guide to Western Birds, 1990

Among the single edition photographs being put up for auction:

Crowned Crane

Lot 309. Crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina), C. Africa.

King Penguin

Lot 419. King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), South Georgia and Falkland Islands.


Lot 457. Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), North America.