Explore significant moments in HarperCollins history
William Collins V (known as Billy Collins) and the printers AdPrint came up with the idea of the New Naturalist Library in 1942. They were to be the first books illustrated with color plates from photographs taken in the wild. Billy Collins was a keen naturalist and wanted to publish popular texts written to the highest scientific standards.
The transparencies of wild animals included in the books were made using the then revolutionary Kodachrome photographic stock: legend has it that the film was flown over in USAF bombers during World War II. The resulting images, combined with detailed texts by specialists in their fields and distinctive cover art, made the series hugely popular among both naturalists and lovers of beautiful books alike.
The first volumes of the New Naturalist series were published in 1945. Now highly collectible, the series comprises more than 150 volumes–132 in the main series and 21 monographs–and has sold more than a million copies combined. The subjects range widely, from butterflies and fossils to nature conservation in Britain. The tradition of beautiful, painterly cover art begun by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis is continued by Robert Gillmor.