In no part of Clouds; An Illustrated Taxonomy does the book claim to be art, but it has to be the most beautiful scientific guide on the market. This sleek little volume is bound in simple-yet-elegant silver covers and printed on matte black paper; it is a far cry from its inspiration, The International Cloud Atlas, which can best be described as an outdated and inaccessible textbook.
Clouds, described by author Ben Young as “an illustrated field guide,” is filled with eye-pleasing cloud silhouettes coupled with short descriptions of each cloud’s features, shape, etymology, and even a small graph to illustrate the cloud’s height in the atmosphere. Far from being inaccessible, Clouds is a perfect balance of fun/functional facts and stunning artwork, making it the perfect coffee table conversation starter.
The clouds are organized by class—“cirrus (curl), cumulus (heap), and stratus (sheet)”—and each one has its own full-page portraiture, smoky white on the black backdrop. Every one of the clouds seems to be perfectly posed for its illustration, an effect Young created by first making sculptures of clouds, and then photographing the sculptures. As Young explains in the Forward, “the images in Clouds are not necessarily representations of natural clouds. Rather, they may be thought of as materializations of the authors’ language.” This deliberate attention to aesthetic details is reflected in every silhouette.
Aside from the facts and illustrations, Clouds also includes several useful features for the recently converted skyline enthusiast. In the beginning of the book, a full “cloud taxonomy” chart illustrates the labeling system for cloud types by altitude. In the back of the book, blank lined pages encourage reader participation in the form of a Cloud Observations Log. There is even a chart denoting all the various symbols for accompanying weather features, from rain and fog to dust storms and ice pellets.
Clouds provides the avid sky explorer with every tool they could ever need. If you are like me, you won’t ever need to leave the comfort of your couch to enjoy this book. As the Forward says, “Clouds are the most appreciable form of weather,” and Young has created a sophisticated new way to appreciate them.
by Jaidree Braddix