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A Tragic Mystery

Thing of beauty. Who was "MSZ"?
Never published?
Gorgeous Art Deco Birds



1906... Someone took three fairly ordinary artist's sketchbooks, and filled them with exquisite small watercolor paintings, and short verses inspired by birds.

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Can you think of an artist, poet, or birdwatcher, initials "MSZ", born near 1865-1885, painted watercolors in art deco style? Likely British.


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The first sketchbook is a "Rede of Birds", a book with a verse for each day of the month. The other two are two "editions" of a collection of "autobiographies" of birds.

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But this thing of great beauty doesn't appear ever to have been published. (If the eventual new owner feels more parts of it should see the light of the internet, if not "day", I would welcome an approach. (Contact details below.) I can transfer things to web at a higher standard than you see here!) (If you would like to own this treasure, search of "birds manuscript" at Henry Sotheran's, London. The asking price is well into four figures, $ or £, by the way.) (Also "by the way"... I am just a book collector, just a customer at Sotheran's... and other places. No axe to grind. Enquiry arises just because I think "MSZ" should get credit for the beautiful thing he/ she created.)

The mystery... who was MSZ?

The creator of something of such beauty deserves to be known, but all we have is "MSZ", and a few clues. Please get in touch, if you have any guesses as to who this might be.

One of the books has a date: 1906. It is in English. The birds are mostly birds you might see in the UK. But, by one person's "gut feeling", herein lies a clue... not all of the birds are common in the UK. Also, as a "preface" to many of the little poems accompanying the illustrations, there are short notes about the habits or behavior of the bird in question. And the poems are not randomly associated with the birds, as you might see in the poem that goes with the tern, illustrated here. So- could it be that the creator's "day job" was ornithology? Can anyone think of an ornithologist, born sometime before, say, 1885... perhaps quite a while before that... with initials "MSZ"?

If you have friends who might know, or are in relevant online forums, please pass on news of this page? (There are "Facebook" and "Google Plus" buttons at the top. (Page URL: http://sheepdogsoftware.co.uk/BookColl/Specif/BirdsMSZ/RedeOfBirds.htm).. also accessible via http://tinyurl.com/who-was-msz-bird-artist

The notes on the bird's natural history are accurate, and seem (to one of us, at least) to come from someone who is used to writing such notes. The paintings and poems, while gorgeous, might come from a very talented "amateur". Remember that what "amateurs" did back in those days was often of a remarkably high standard.

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Date of birth: There are signs that these books were the end product of years of working towards the result we see. (One of them is almost certainly an "early draft" of one of the others. If, however, you hadn't seen the "later edition", you would assume that the "early" one was a satisfactory ultimate edition. The "early edition" that survives would in all probability itself be the outcome of now lost even earlier notes and sketches, if not a previous "edition". So... 1885 is probably "too late" for the creator's date of birth. But the hand-writing and painting do not suggest an old person with failing color perception... this was before good artificial light and cataract surgery, remember.... or with failing manual dexterity. So, probably born after, what, 1865?

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It Just Seems Wrong that the name of the person responsible for this thing of charm and beauty should become lost in the mists of time. And names starting with "Z" are not so terribly common. Any help you can provide in tracking down even candidates would be much appreciated. If you don't know of an ornithologist "MSZ", maybe the style of the poems or of the paintings will suggest someone to you?

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