ATKINSON, The Rev. Christopher (1754-1795). Two albums of original watercolour drawings, titled on spines: 'English Birds.' [Cambridgeshire, Essex and Cheshire: c. 1784-1795].
2 volumes, large 4° (350 x 300mm). With a near-contemporary 6p. manuscript list of the original contents of the albums. Dark purple-toned paper throughout, loose mounted with 75 original pencil, watercolour and bodycolour drawings (sheet size: approx. 320 x 270mm. and smaller), some heightened with gum arabic, most with identifying inscriptions in ink or pencil giving Latin binomial and common name, occasional notes regarding when and where the drawing was executed or where the specimen was obtained, two signed with initials 'CA,' seven dated. (About 26 drawings browned, 13 with staining to margins.) Original half roan, the flat spines in seven compartments divided by a double fillet and roll tool, blue morocco spine label lettered 'English Birds' and green morocco label lettered 'Vol II' or 'Vol III,' green cloth ties (joints split, upper cover of vol. 'III' detached).
TWO ALBUMS OF VERY FINE ORIGINAL DRAWINGS BY AN ORNITHOLOGICAL ARTIST OF THE FIRST RANK. Christopher Atkinson was the son of the vicar of Thorp-Arch, Yorkshire. He was based at Cambridge from 1773 to 1775, firstly at Trinity College as Pensioner and Fellow, and then as vicar of St. Edward's and Fellow of Trinity Hall. He married Catherine Leicester of Tabley, Cheshire, in 1785, and from that year until his early death remained vicar of Wethersfield, Essex, where he was buried.
The majority of the drawings are on wove paper (three of these are watermarked 'J. Whatman', there is the occasional image on laid paper (one of these is watermarked 'C. Taylor'. The spine labels imply that there was at least one other volume of drawings, and a number of individual drawings did appear on the market in the 1980s. Despite this, the present albums include a wide range of subjects from most of the families of British Birds: the raptors (the Kestrel, 'White Owl', 'Moor Buzzard' and Kite), water birds (the Little Grebe, Little Bittern, Whitefronted Goose), waders (the 'Red Godwit', Ruff, 'Long Shanks', Stone Curlew, Green Sandpiper, Avocet, Dunlin and Snipe), seabirds (Kittiwake, Shag, Guillemot, Puffin), warblers ('Mountain Linnet', 'Grasshopper Lark', Sky Lark, Woodlark), finches (Bullfinch, Goldfinch) and others. There are enough inscriptions to indicate that, in addition to any drawings made at his home, Atkinson also drew whilst in Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast, and at Tabley. (2)