The book focuses on the collection belonging to Alan Dudley, who lives in England and preserves the skulls and displays them in his home. This is likely the largest private collection of skulls in the world. Most of the skulls are found, some are purchased, and some are donated by zoos once an animal has passed away. He has a wide range of animals represented in his collection and this book aims to showcase as many as possible in an organized fashion. The photographs are beautiful and showcase the skulls in different angles so that the reader can really see what makes each skull different. I really appreciated the fact that beside each large photo of the skull, the author also included a thumbnail photo of the animal in a more recognizable (ahem, alive) format. Each photo also includes notes on the animal, Dudley's notes where applicable, and the animal's biological classification. Some of the bird skulls were particularly interesting to look at!
Winchester also includes some interesting narration on such topics as the use of skulls in art, or the difference between science and pseudoscience with application to skulls in particular. It all comes together in a remarkably interesting and beautiful book. Is it a great gift? Perhaps for a certain kind of individual - yes. It is a great conversation piece, and it is certainly unusual. I'm glad I happened upon it!
Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection
by Simon Winchester
Photography by Nick Mann
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2012
Links for purchase:Amazon
The Book Depository