Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley’s Curious Collection

Simon Winchester, Author, Nick Mann, Photographer
Simon Winchester, photos by Nick Mann. Black Dog & Leventhal (Workman, dist.), $29.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-57912-912-5
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Digging deep into Alan Dudley’s collection of more than 2,000 skulls, Winchester (The Professor and the Madman) and photographer Mann highlight the rarest and most unusual of the vaunted cranium connoisseur’s world-class assortment (which is housed cozily in a spare upstairs bedroom in his home in England). Grouping the skulls according to species, Winchester enthusiastically educates armchair osteologists on the peculiarities of key subspecies, enabling readers, should the need arise, to tell a long-nosed bandicoot from a southern brown bandicoot, the bizarrely horned babirusa from a warthog, or the fearsome (and extinct) saber-toothed cat from a modern (endangered) tiger. Though some, like the hard-to-find elephant skull, are replicas, the vast majority are the real thing, including that of the extinct dodo bird. Winchester rounds out the book with various essays on topics such as the use of skulls in artwork, phrenology, and other related subjects with varying degrees of success. Prone to wordiness, he’s at his best offering short takes on his subjects or tips on DIY skull collecting. Mann’s crisp, reverential photography more than makes up for the volume’s literary shortcomings, making this one coffee-table book that’s hard to resist. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor. (Oct.)
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