London, South Kensington
1 June 2009
WILSON, Alexander (1766-1813). American Ornithology; or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States. Edited and completed by George Ord. Philadelphia: Robert Carr (vols. I-II) or Robert & William Carr (vols. III-IX) for Bradford & Inskeep, 1808-1814. 9 volumes, large imperial 4° (340 x 257mm). 76 hand-coloured engraved plates after Wilson by Alexander Lawson, G. Murray, Benjamin Tanner and J.G. Warnicke. 7pp. list of subscribers at end of vol. IX. (Plates browned and foxed throughout, some plates closely shaved affecting plate numbers and captions, 5 plates trimmed into image.) Contemporary red half morocco, spines elaborately gilt with foliate scrolls and other tools (extremities a little rubbed).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, with the preface dated October 1st. 1808 on p.iv, and the sentence on line 23, p. 33 of vol. I beginning: 'Tho it is believed'. I. Wilson's original drawings and paintings of birds, translated into attractive plates by Lawson, and detailed observations of their habits and habitats combined to produce 'the first truly great American ornithology and also the first truly outstanding American color plate book of any type' (Bennett), predating Audubon. The numerous figures represent 262 species of birds, 39 of which were new to science and 23 reidentified. Anker 533; Bennett, A Practical Guide to American Book Collecting (1663-1940) p.44; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.155; Nissen IVB 992; Zimmer p.679.
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Please note that the illustration in the printed catalogue is incorrectly labelled 168.
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