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  • Writer's pictureRachel Bebb

The Book of Vanishing Species by Beatrice Forshall

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

RBC exhibitor Beatrice Forshall has published a compilation of stories, illustrations and engravings of 69 species at threat of extinction.

The Book of Vanishing Species is a stunning homage to the planet's most mysterious, bizarre and wondrous creatures and plants. Their stories are captivating, from the eyeless and tiny dragon-like olm to the hawksbill turtle, whose gender will be determined by the temperature of the sand it is born in. These species may have survived for hundreds of thousands of years by cleverly adapting to their environments, but their future remains far from certain.

The book brings to life red cranes as they dance and bow for the sheer joy of movement, trees that breathe out a haze of misty atmosphere for insects that only feast on one kind of flower, a deep-ocean snail quietly building its shell from iron... and each one of them is illuminated with an exquisite illustration. As you turn the pages, there emerges a network of life that stretches across and around the planet in a dazzling web of existence.

The book of vanishing species by Beatrice Forshall

Extract from the book:

"In the eighteen months it has taken me to research this book, 107 species have been declared extinct.

Though extinction plays a role in evolution, it is thought the current rate of extinction is happening a thousand times faster than before humans existed. Death is a necessary part of every species' cycle of life; extinction ends this cycle. We are destroying without knowing the value of what we destroy - or worse, knowing full well.

When I was a child, the fields around our house were full of life, thick with meadow clary, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, clover, buttercups, cuckoo flowers, cowslips and dandelions, and busy with the hum of insects. The seasons were still defined. In the field of rye grass outside my window now, there are no flowers. At its edges, dock leaves are contorted from the effects of herbicides. There are few sounds except the motorway a couple of miles from here. Swallows no longer visit, nor do we hear the call of the cuckoo. Crows flap across the fields. At night, the stars are obscured.

We confront the greatest challenge that has ever faced humanity, a drama in which each of us can choose the part we play. We can halt the rate of extinction and begin to reverse the damage we have done to the planet. It has often been said that what makes humans different from other species is our ability to imagine the future and turn an idea into a reality. Imagine a world with clean air, clean water, oceans of fish, wilderness. Imagine a world in which we did not have to worry about these things. We are all part of this story; it is up to each of us how we write the next chapter."



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