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Wood Engraving, Peregrine

Peregrine‘Living in buzzard country, I should have been looking for a book that would fill the many gaps in my knowledge of these avian next-door neighbours. In fact, I was simply searching for the best writing on birds when I came across J. A. Baker’s The Peregrine (1967) – a book that isn’t so much the ‘best’ as the only writing of its kind on the subject . . . The book is full of the drama of the everyday, the exhilaration of flight, the terrible beauty of the kill when the peregrine is at its most impressive, and Baker’s writing at its most ecstatic. Stylistically it is immensely assured too, whether instinctively or as a result of careful craft. The intensity of an account of the peregrine’s long fall from an immense height on to its prey in the snow, for example, is balanced by a briefer, searing description from the perspective of the victim: “And for the partridge there was the sun suddenly shut out, the foul flailing blackness spreading wings above, the roar ceasing, the blazing knives driving in, the terrible white face descending – hooked and masked and horned and staring-eyed.”’
Annabel Walker introduced us to J.A. Baker, his book and its powerful subject in Issue 45 of Slightly Foxed. Her article was illustrated by this wood engraving by C. F. Tunnicliffe.

About the contributor

Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe was born in Macclesfield in 1901. He grew up on a farm in Sutton around the wildlife which would later influence his work, and studied at the Macclesfield School of Art before gaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. Tunnicliffe worked with several media, including watercolour, oil painting, etching and wood engraving. He is best known for his closely observed depictions of birds and wildlife, which he portrayed within their natural settings as part of the landscape. His illustrations have been used in over 250 books by various publishers including Faber & Faber, Cambridge University Press and HarperCollins Publishers.

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