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Thomas Littleton Powys, 4th Baron Lilford (1833-1896) was one of the eight founders of the British Orninthologists' Union in 1858 and its President from 1867 until his death. He was also the first President of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society. He travelled widely, building his collection of birds which were kept at his aviary in Lilford Hall until as recently as 1991. He wrote many books about birds including the seminal Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Isles, in seven volumes 1885-1897 which was completed by Osbert Salvin after his death.
Thorburn's association with Lord Lilford was one of the most important and fruitful of his life. When J.G. Keulemans fell ill Thorburn undertook the huge task of illustrating this mammoth work, ultimately completing 268 out of the 421 plates of which lots 44-48 are examples.
The frontispiece selected for Lilford's book was a photograph of him in his study. A watercolour by Thorburn after this photograph was sold in these rooms 19 May 2006, lot 29.