Illuminated Origin of Species

We just received the following letter from calligrapher Kelly Houle:

I am a natural history artist and calligrapher, and I’m creating a large-scale illuminated manuscript based on The Origin of Species. I’m looking for ideas and advice from biologists and evolution experts like you who might be willing to offer feedback on the scientific accuracy of my illustrations and possibly contribute to the project. I am designing each page as an individual work of art, writing out the entire text by hand and illuminating the realistic natural history illustrations with iridescent watercolors and 23-karat gold. The Illuminated Origin of Species will be nearly 300 pages, each measuring 22x30 inches, with over 500 illuminations. I would appreciate any constructive advice that will help make The Illuminated Origin of Species as good as it can be. Please contact me if you would be willing to serve as a science advisor for the project.

I believe that the main barrier to understanding The Origin of Species is the perceived difficulty of the writing. The concepts themselves are simple, yet profound. I hope to improve understanding of The Origin by integrating poetic arrangements of Darwin’s words with visually striking presentations of the evidence. I will use elements of poetry, traditional realism, lettering art, graphic design, and fine art illustration in the service of communicating one of the most important ideas in science.

I invite you to take a look at The Illuminated Origin of Species here. Once there, you can read about the project, watch a short video, and contribute if you wish. I’m writing the names of all donors in a special section of the illuminated manuscript. I’m also giving gifts of art related to The Illuminated Origin for donations of $10 or more. … I’m trying to raise $6000 by November 17 to create the first ten pages of The Illuminated Origin of Species. I’m 2/3 of the way there with only a week to go.

If you have any questions or comments about the project, I would love to hear from you. For project updates, please take a minute to find The Illuminated Origin of Species on Facebook and subscribe to my blog. If you know anyone else who may want to be involved in this project, please pass my information on to them. I am also seeking an institutional donor to fund the entire project in exchange for the completed manuscript. I hope you will want to be one of the very first supporters of this historic endeavor.

Kelly Houle is an artist, calligrapher, naturalist, and science educator. Her paintings, drawings, and handmade books are in public and private collections around the world. In 2008 she founded Books of Kell’s, a small, private, fine arts press under which she publishes handmade editions and one-of-a-kind books in addition to original art and prints. Her work has received numerous awards, including a Distinguished Book Award from the Miniature Book Society, a grant from The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and professional development grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists and a Fellow of The Linnean Society. She was recently nominated for a 2012 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship.