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Birds are perhaps the most familiar of all animals, living so close to humans, providing companionship with song or with their endlessly active presence. Others, less bold or more remote, prompt us to go out in search of them through their sheer beauty and mystery. The British Museum’s collections include images of birds from all over the world. Some artists have used them purely for their decorative qualities, as in Indian miniatures and Chinese bird and flower paintings. Thomas Bewick and the Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro, in his ‘Myriad Birds’, presented birds in realistic detail as they went about their daily lives, while other artists concentrate on scientific accuracy. The endless variety of birds, their freedom of sky, land, water, and especially their song have also inspired writers. Each image in this anthology is accompanied by a poem or extract from some of our best-loved writers - including Shakespeare, Chaucer and Wordsworth - along with contributions from less familiar as well as anonymous writers from across the world.