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Distributed for Reaktion Books


 “At length did cross an Albatross, / Through the fog it came; / As if it had been a Christian soul, / We hailed it in God’s name.” The introduction of the albatross in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” remains one of the most well-known references to this majestic seabird in Western culture. In Albatross, Graham Barwell goes beyond Coleridge to examine the role the bird plays in the lives of a wide variety of peoples and societies, from the early views of north Atlantic mariners to modern encounters by writers, artists, and filmmakers.
Exploring how the bird has been celebrated in proverbs, folk stories, art, and ceremonies, Barwell shows how people marvel at the way the albatross soars through the air, covering awe-inspiring distances with little effort thanks to its impressive wingspan. He surveys the many approaches people have taken to thinking about the albatross over the past two hundred years—from those who devoted their lives to these birds to those who hunted them for food and sport—and discusses its place in the human imagination. Concluding with a reflection on the bird’s changing significance in the modern world, Barwell considers threats to its continued existence and its prospects for the future. With one hundred illustrations from nature, film, and popular culture, Albatross is an absorbing look at these beautiful birds.

224 pages | 60 color plates, 40 halftones | 5 3/8 x 7 1/2 | © 2014


Biological Sciences: Natural History

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“Whenever a new title in this entertaining ‘Animal’ series lands on my desk, it feels like a real treat, and this one does not disappoint. . . . Albatross brings together a wonderful mix of fact, fiction, legend, art, and science about one creature. In short, it covers a lot of ground. It looks at the role the albatross has played in the different lives and cultures of humans, the wonder of its awesomely long journeys, and the knowledge gained from studying it, followed by consequent conservation measures and the way we see this iconic bird in the modern world. It is a great little book to read through, or to dip into.” 

British Trust for Ornithology News

“I am partial to books well made, quality effort in assembly and choice of materials as well as content. Albatross qualifies in every way. There are sixty-five volumes in this animal series, subjects ranging from chickens to cats, from lobsters to lions. If this book is an indication of quality, I would like to have them all.”

Jim Williams | Wingnut, Star-Tribune

“A lively and interesting read for those interested in our largest winged ambassadors. The writing is succinct, the photographs are beautiful as well as informative, and the author does a commendable job of researching a wide variety of subjects to include in this diverse book.”

Lindsay Young, Pacific Rim Conservation | Marine Ornithology

Table of Contents


1 Encountering the Albatross

2 Imagining the Albatross

3 Using the Albatross: Indigenous Cultures of the Pacific

4 Using the Albatross: Non-indigenous Peoples

5 Saving the Albatross

6 The Albatross Today: An Iconic Bird



Select Bibliography

Associations and Websites


Photo Acknowledgements


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