SELBY, Prideaux John (1788-1867). Plates to Selby's Illustrations of British Ornithology. Edinburgh: Archibald Constable & Co. and Hurst, Robinson & Co., [1821-]1834.
2 volumes, broadsheets (660 x 514mm). 2 engraved titles, 1 with engraved vignette, 4 uncoloured plates, and 218 hand-coloured etched plates by Selby, Robert Mitford and W.H. Lizars after Selby, Mitford and Sir William Jardine. (Scattered spotting, light browning and offsetting throughout, mainly affecting guards only, though a few plates affected, first 20 plates of vol. 2 with tiny marginal tear, plate XCIV with small marginal chip, very light creasing affecting title and first 4 plates of vol. 1 and title and first plate of vol. 2.) Contemporary red half morocco gilt over tan cloth covered boards (extremities rubbed, corners bumped, sides slightly scuffed and soiled).
'[SELBY'S] GREATEST WORK WILL EVER BE DEEMED HIS CELEBRATED ILLUSTRATIONS OF BRITISH ORNITHOLOGY ... OUR ENGLISH EQUIVALENT OF AUDUBON'S GREAT WORK' (Mullens and Swann, p. 518); this opinion was shared by Selby's contemporaries, who considered it 'the most splendid and costly work yet published on the birds of Great Britain' (William Swainson), illustrated by 'the finest examples extant of ornithological etchings' (Hugh Edwin Strickland, both quoted in: C. Jackson Bird Etchings, Ithaca and London: 1985, pp. 202 and 212). Prideaux John Selby 'was very gifted as an artist, and the two volumes of Illustrations of British Ornithology are outstandingly beautiful. In many people's estimation, the clarity and crispness of his figures give them an austere beauty that is lacking in the pretty lithographs in H.L. Meyer's and John Gould's books about British birds ... The cool, classical quality of Selby's plates belongs to the age of elegance and could never have been achieved by the Victorian John Gould. Selby's bird figures were the most accurate delineations of British birds to that date, and the liveliest. After so many books with small, stiff bird portraits, this new atlas with its life-size figures and more relaxed drawing was a great achievement in the long history of bird illustration' (C. Jackson, op. cit, p.212). FIRST EDITION with watermarks of 1812-1821 in vol. 1 and 1825-1833 in vol 2. BM(NH) IV, p. 1896; cf. Fine Bird Books (1990) p.141; Mullens & Swann p. 520; Nissen IVB 853; cf. Wood pp. 561-562; cf. Zimmer pp. 571-572. (2)