SELBY, Prideaux John (1788-1867). Plates to Selby's Illustrations of British Ornithology. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1841.
2 volumes, broadsheets (653 x 518mm). 2 engraved titles with hand-coloured vignettes, 2 uncoloured plates (only, of 4) and 218 hand-coloured etched plates by Selby, Robert Mitford and W.H. Lizars after Selby, Mitford and Sir William Jardine. (Vol. I: title and plates I*, I, II, XXIV, XXXIII, XLVIII and uncoloured plate II with some marking, creasing or old repairs; vol.II: plates LXXVI and LXXXVII* shaved with loss to plate numbers or captions, title and plates I, II, III, XI*, CII[bis], CII**, and CIII with some marking, creasing or old repairs.) Contemporary green half morocco gilt, gilt edges (rebacked and recornered, old spines laid down, modern endpapers). Provenance: Quentin Keynes (1921-2003).
'[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). The original edition was issued at irregular intervals and this is reflected in the erratic numbering of the plates: with the exception of the two uncoloured plates in vol. I, the plate count of the present set (commonly known as the 'Bohn reprint') corresponds with both the BM(NH) and the Zimmer sets. There is one other variation, noted by the BM(NH) catalogue, which is that in the Bohn reprint, the plate of the immature 'Solan Gannet. Young of the year' in vol. II has had its number altered from LXXXIX[bis] to LXXXVII. BM(NH) IV, p. 1896; cf. Fine Bird Books p.141; Mullens & Swann p. 520; Nissen IVB 853; cf. Wood pp. 561-562; cf. Zimmer pp. 571-572. (2)