Richard Bradley’s “Common Spiders of North America”

csonaEvery few years a field guide emerges with artwork so stunning the book is worth owning regardless of whether you plan to identify anything with it. Richard Bradley’s Common Spiders of North America (U.C. Press, 2013; $60) is just such a book. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

Each of the 82 color plates, created by illustrator Steve Buchanan, could be hung on the wall as standalone pieces. They are masterful, clean, and composed to easily discern diagnostic differences among similar species. The book even feels classy. Weighty, solid, consequential.

The text covers an introduction to arachnid biology, keys to larger spider groups, and cursory accounts of 469 commonly-encountered animals. Common Spiders won’t help with every species. After all, North America is home to at least 3,500 described spiders, so this book only touches 15% of the fauna. The specialist will still rely on technical literature. But if you are a general naturalist looking to put a name on the creatures you find around the house and garden, Bradley & Buchanan’s artful tome will serve beautifully.

Enough with the praise, though. This wouldn’t be a Myrmecos post if I didn’t find something to grumble about. Check out the plate format:

To the right, beautiful spiders. To the left, wasted space.

Once you have identified your mystery spider and wish to read more, you are directed to a blurb 50 or so pages away. Flip. Flip back. Flip again. Flip. Flip. Flip.

Yet, gaze across the vast white plains on the left. Pertinent biological and geographic information could just as well have been pasted across from the illustration. The book is unnecessarily cumbersome as a reference, and longer than it needs to be. This antiquated layout is a frustrating flaw for a book whose production obviously received a great deal of attention.

Still, the artwork makes Common Spiders an instant classic. Highly recommended.


7 thoughts on “Richard Bradley’s “Common Spiders of North America””

  1. Looks like the sort of thing that should be an app. Flip through the photo gallery to identify your spider, then tap the image to get the data.

  2. I have had the Kindle version for awhile. It is somewhat hard to use in the Kindle format as the plates and text don’t align properly. Still, the illustrations are good and the variety of species is better than any other N. American spider book in my possession.

    1. Sounds like a symptom of traditional publishers not quite knowing what to do with an electronic format. At a recent sci comm meeting, some of the more experienced authors were lamenting that publishers still weren’t getting the concept of eBooks even as sales were ramping up in that sector.

      1. I just published a book and it’s available on Kindle and Amazon. An issue I had was that most of the images on Kindle are half the size they should be (but still usable). So I made a Kindle friendly version to replace the file (just on the Kindle bookstore) but found that they limit the file size you’re allowed to upload using that method, and I’d have to cut out more than half the photos just to get it to the right size which defeats the purpose of editing it…, so to fix the problem I’d have to change the print file I initially uploaded to Amazon which later shows up on Kindle, and hope that: After submitting it again, waiting the day for them to approve it, then me proofing it on Amazon as a pdf preview, and after it showing up on the Kindle bookstore, that everything is formatted appropriately. This process is a serious pain and you can’t just edit your file on their end, you have to start over for every little issue.

  3. Re: “The specialist will still rely on technical literature.” Any recommendation on said technical literature? I still plan on getting the Bradley book though.


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