14 November 2007
LATHAM, John (1740-1837). A General History of Birds. Winchester: for the Author [but London: Henry Bohn], 1821-28 [but circa 1845].
11 volumes in 10 (index vol. bound in vol.I), 4° (270 x 215mm). Subscribers' list. 193 hand-coloured etched plates after and by Latham. (Occasional light browning.) Contemporary green half morocco gilt (slightly rubbed). Provenance: Robert Hamond Elwes (armorial bookplate).
A VERY FINE SET OF THE REVISED AND EXPANDED SECOND EDITION, SECOND ISSUE, with the hand-coloured plates that are "like highly finished drawings". Describing this second issue in 1977 the late Charles Swann of Wheldon & Wesley Ltd. wrote "It would appear that only 25 copies of this edition were prepared". He does not cite his source(s), but what is certain is that Bohn set out to raise the quality of the plates. The work is listed in his catalogue of 1847 with a note: "This celebrated work was published at 25 guineas in boards, with the plates coloured in a very inferior manner. The present copies are all coloured like highly finished drawings, with studious accuracy, under the direction of several eminent ornithologists".
The superior quality of the plates in this second issue is not recorded in the standard references. Brunet notes, of the second edition as a whole, that "Il y a un choix faire entre les exempl., qui ont plus ou moins bien enluminés", but does not recognise the two distinct issues. Lowndes records the Bohn reissue but makes no comment on plate quality. The later more specialised bibliographies fail to mention the later issue and its improved plates. Brunet III, 872; Lowndes II,p. 1314; Fine Bird Books p. 87; Nissen IVB 532; Zimmer p. 376. (10)
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