Illustrating "Walden Pond"

I was very pleased by the strong reception accorded to "Walden Pond:  A History"--Finalist, Herbert Feis Award, American Historical Association; Certificate of Commendation, American Association for State and Local History; "A book of lasting value," Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe Special Award recipient; The Masters of Science Writing--Best Sci-Tech Books, Library Journal.

Illustrating the book (available at brought its own set of challenges.  I was fortunate to find a hand-colored, historic glass slide for the cover:

Nearly all the black-and-white photographs inside the book were culled from hundreds of hours of archival research, and many of them had never been reproduced before.  But some I took myself.  After the death of my friend Brad Dean I got requests for the photograph I included of him studying a rock during one of our outings in Walden Woods, a boulder that Thoreau showed in one of his surveys:

The great environmentalist Ed Schofield was incredibly helpful to me as I wrote my book.  He paid a nice compliment when he looked at the photograph of himself and said, "I see what you are trying to do with your illustrations--to maximize the value of each picture, given the strictly limited number of them.  You've introduced both me and the Thoreau Lyceum building in one picture."  

"Walden Pond" captured a moment in time:  Ed and several other of the main characters have subsequently passed away.

I took the photograph of Don Henley mobbed by the media in the middle of a forest, where his backdrop had been prepared by sawing down some birch trees.  

The series of maps in "Walden Pond:  A History" were extremely time-consuming and difficult to pull off.  There could have been zero maps, but I insisted on six, because the whole thesis of the book was, "This is a real place, not a literary construct as some English professors imagine, so we ought to see exactly where Thoreau walked."

The map below shows who owned all the land around Walden Pond when Thoreau lived there.  It was far from being an unexplored wilderness, I hope this irrefutably demonstrates.

At the very center of the book appear two maps contrasting Concord Then and Now.  One environmentalist objected strongly to my showing this, as if I were seeking to portray Concord as spoiled by development.  And yet I did see much ruination, including the destruction of Thoreau's Deep Cut of the Railroad, without anyone noticing it, during the time I was writing the book.

I drew the maps by hand, down to the smallest detail, and hovered over the shoulder of a patient graphic designer who created the published versions.  Graphic designers are in the habit of moving things around a lot, and changing their sizes, and I found myself constantly crying, "But you can't do that--this is a map!" 

I was pleased to include a few of Thoreau's own drawings of Walden Woods:

I did a series of 5 x 7 studies en plein air around Concord, recording the appearance of the places I had gotten to know so well.  The one below is from a collection in the Southeast and shows the Old Manse.