You have to have an eye for it, and patience, and not be overhasty in putting this book aside. The panel had to help each other along in getting inside it and fathoming out how it worked. For example, did you know that birds can chuun, chirk, giggle, chick, grice, gurr, peeter, kyuck, chitter, prittle, pree, chink, shrark, stiggle? And this is only a tiny selection. Here the author, a keen birdwatcher, has recorded the details of 160 of his hours spent observing, spread over twelve months. Each month the hours shift through the day, beginning well before sunrise and ending when darkness falls. The concept is a variant on the medieval liber horarum or book of hours, such as Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. In this case the observations are purely lingual, with the occasional pen drawing in between.
What lies before us is a conventional book – except that it appears to consist entirely of notes – in a cover of unprinted greyboard. On the front, nothing but the title in blind debossing; on the spine, title and author’s name in black foil blocking; inside, a shiny bright red ribbon marker of ample length, and an hour’s observations per page, uncluttered traditional typography, black with start and end times and all observations rubricated. The shifting from month to month is indicated by a meticulously drawn pollarded willow gradually changing from winter bareness to summer plumage and back to winter bareness, and by a blank page. You’d think this would be simply neat and tidy, a bit boring – but the book is completely crazy in its strictly consistent approach and execution, with its classical typography and long – too long, in the view of one panel member – lines, its careful methodicality, and its restrained design. The panel were unanimous in their enthusiasm for this self-consistent, meditative outlier.