The "Eiderbook", as we dubbed this
truly fundamental work by Alexandra Goryashko is quite a rare
phenomenon in domestic literature. This is an excellent piece of work
in the genre of scientific and ecological education, even though the
author has not, probably, thought of it that way.
But the "Eiderbook", having hardly hatched, started living its own
life, imposing its will not only on the author but on all the
participants - the editors, scientists, the eider farming
practitioners, artists and designers, and just anyone, who
happened to be near, who, at some point of their
lives, crossed passes with the eider or eider experts.
The result was a monographic work not just about
the eider but about Man, the history of many countries and nations,
interwoven biographies, and the hard road of obtaining scientific
knowledge. This book is not merely
just interesting for all, including scientists. It is also very well
illustrated and beautifully designed. It is a synergy of enthusiasm
and dedication, of the love for the subject and demanding attitude
to one's own work.
Maria Gavrilo, PhD,
acting member of the Russian Geographic
Member of the British Royal Geographical Society. A polar
ornithologist with 35 years of experience.
Bought the Eiderbook. Now I'm
speechless. I cannot even imagine what it took to create it. Thank
Thank you for doing such a great
job of putting together and processing a huge amount of information and
publishing it as a book!
I'm delighted. Today I got the
BOOK, and now I, with great pleasure, am flipping over its pages
enjoying the text and illustrations. With gratitude for your work
and the best wishes,
is such a genre in scientific literature - a collective
monograph. Scientists of different specialties gather and
describe the same object, each from his own point of view, from
the standpoint of his own science. With a successful selection
of the team of authors, interesting books
result that give a three-dimensional
idea of the object described. In this
book, the same effect was achieved by
a single author.
If I had not been familiar with this book from the moment of the
birth of Alexandra's very idea, I would have decided that it was
written by many experts, competent but very
different: biologists, historians, religious and regional
studies experts, ethnographers and
material scientists, art and hunting experts, literary scholars
and local historians. And so that they do not fall into
scientific tedium, a journalist-publicist also worked with them.
But no, all this was done by one woman, an
eider-expert and a homeworker, who does not formally work
anywhere. I had no idea that it was
possible to process such a volume of
information alone and present it to the reader
the way it was presented.
The illustrations by Maria Sergunina and all the work of Gennady
Alexandrov on technical editing, and
especially preparing archive photos for the print, are
worthy of special admiration. Photos from a century ago
contribute to the book's charm.
Aleksandr Chernitskiy, Doctor of Biological Sciences, took part
in surveys of eiders and collecting down in the Kandalaksha
Nature Reserve in 1965 and 1966.
What's in common between St. Cuthbert, an
Icelandic farmer, an ornithologist, a Nenets hunter and the Papanin's
They all turned out connected with a sea duck,
the Common Eider (Somateria
mollissima). During 14 centuries of the
documented relationship between people and the duck some
protected the bird, others hunted it, still others tried
breeding it, yet others thought up thought up to use its nest
down as an insulator, and there were people who had nothing to
do with it but became part of legends.
The popular science book "A Wild Bird and a
Cultured Man" by my colleague Alexandra Goryashko tells of the
multi-faceted history of how the Common Eider met and interacted
Frankly, at the very beginning the idea of
the book of "All About Elephants" type didn't appear very
realistic to me. Alexandra, however, did the impossible by
getting together a support group the size of a small research
institution consisting of ornithologists, historians, hunting
research, nature protection, ethnography, material science and
art history. Finally, this book is on my desk. It has five
sections, each one of which could become a separate book.
The part of Eider biology was written in
cooperation with professional ornithologists with whom Alexandra
spent years counting and ringing the Eiders. There is a legend
of St. Cuthbert, with a discussion of its origin and the
analysis of what really was the case. The largest section tells
of the Eider and Man in different parts of the world at verious
time periods. It contains five biographies of people prominent
in the study and preservation of the Eider. And, finally, it has
a part about the Eider in art, both material and verbal.
Each section of the book is based on a huge
amount of work to collect credible information and contains some
original research. For instance, all know that the Eider down is
the warmest material but it turned out nobody can answer the
question why it is so. So Alexandra
took the down and went to study it under the microscope.
Yes the book stays within the popular science
genre. It is pleasant, easy and interesting to read as a
recreation, not only to specialists
in the course of their work. I'm sure
everyone will find an interesting part in this Eider
Sophia Nazarova, Ph.D.,
Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy
turned out, in my opinion, to bea totally unique book. The author's
ability to ask uncommon questions about usual things will prompt the
reader not to take established myths for granted only because they
were repeated many times over before. Thanks to exceptional
thoroughness with which the author handles archives and original
sources of information we can become acquainted with a great number
of little known or just forgotten books, documents, and facts. At
the same time the literary talent of the author allows a quite wide
range of readers to enjoy reading this fascinating, in a "crime
story" sort of way, book.
PhD, deputy director of research
at the Institute of Biological Problems of the North of the Far East
Section of the Russian Academy of Sciences
One of the top experts on the
known the author of this book and been aware of her work for 15 years,
and am certain that both the book and its author deserve trust and
support. All who helped in getting it published will be proud of having
participated in making this book printed. There was no book about birds
and people like this before!
Dr.Sc. (biology), director of the
Scientific Research Zoological Museum of the Moscow State University
I was the
first! I'll brag! I was the very first reader to grab this book!!!!
Brought it home but my mom took it away from me, saying she would be
the first one to read it, according to seniority. But when my mom
fell asleep I sneaked the book away from her! This is fascinating!
The text is beautifully written. The language is so easy it feels
not like reading but listening to a story.
My grandchildren grabbed the book and are reading
it at night. Occasionally I get a chance to take a peek into it...
A rare bird can fly to the
center of Edinburgh
The legendary Eiderbook landed
close to the St. Cuthbert Cathedral. And what a book it is! Such
books can only be born by the author with active brain, true
interest in the subject (she spent 40 years of her life on the
subject) and a wish to tell about it in a true and interesting way.
The book weighs 2.5kg
and has all sorts of information, with the eider being only a link
between other participants: Inuits, Vikings, Catholic Popes,
Icelandic farmers, failed risk-takers, Russian poachers and Catholic
I'd like to remark that my reading of the book
takes the form of a dialogue with the author. Every time I say out
loud "this cannot be the case because it is outside what's
possible", the next paragraph starts by the author calmly remarking
"it may appear impossible but let's consider facts and
arguments..."... And yes, the asserted fact does indeed take place.
To give facts that surprise the reader required talent and more
talent of the storyteller.
The book is long but there are enough interesting
photos and funny drawings on every page. The author is certainly
able to get the reader excited about any subject. A fascinating
piece of reading. THANK YOU!
I think it is a deserving book, written very
professionally and yet not at all boring. From this seemingly narrow
subject of just one species of bird grew an impressive and
captivating saga about nature, culture, and history of several
countries. It encourages one to not only
take a fresh look at the eider biology but on many issues of
history, ethnography and even the methods of science. Lastly, this
is just a very interesting and thorough piece of literature of the
popular science genre.
Dr.Sc. (biology), professor of
Russian Academy of Sciences.
Head of the Biological Evolution Faculty of the
Moscow State University's Biology Department, senior researcher of
the Palaeontology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Chairperson of the board of directors of the "Evolution" fund.
It happened! Today I managed to
acquire a freshly printed, still warm, and certain to become
legendary, copy of the Eiderbook "A Wild Bird and a Cultured Man.
The Common Eider and Homo Sapiens: Fourteen Centuries Together" (St.
Petersburg 2020). The most delicious 496
pages about the eider biology, its down, and the relations with
people, from the time of the Vikings to nowadays. Coated paper,
luxurious photographs of present and former times, striking
miniatures... My congratulations to the author!
I feel very proud to have helped Sasha and her
husband Pasha with making the English version sound as natural as
possible instead of being a purely academic book. While doing such a
pleasurable task I learnt a lot of fascinating things about the
marvelous Eider ducks relationship with Man in Russia and
Scandinavian countries. It's been a labour of love for Sasha to put
down in writing and share her immense ornithological knowledge with
readers in such a way that it's a book that anyone would find
interesting and informative and good enough to grace bookshelves or
table tops anywhere. The illustrations and photographs add to the
story. Buy the book for yourself to while away hours, as a gift for
a friend or bird protection project in Russia or abroad. For certain
they'll be thrilled when the wrapping's ripped off!
A review in the "British Birds" jouinal, April 2021, Vol. 114, Issue
4, pages 243-244
Congratulations! What an
extraordinary book! We are absolutely thrilled to have this gem in
our collection - to be shared with our friends. Thank you for our
My husband Dan is a
sculptor, mainly of birds. This eider has a four foot wing span - I
gave Dan this buoy (body) and then your book arrived and there has
been no peace - he has been so inspired by your work and now he is
completing this wonderful bird. This project was a long time in the
background and now takes over most of his waking hours...
The eider finally made
it to our living room! Mighty impressive duck! And it’s all thanks
Our danish friend Niels
Roos read your book cover to cover immediately but we are savoring
it slowly, learning more and more each time.
Dan & Kyra West,