CAPTAIN THOMAS BROWN (1785-1862)
Illustrations of the American Ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte, Prince of Musignano. With the Addition of Numerous Recently Discovered Species and Representations of the Whole Sylva of North America. Edinburgh: Frazer & Co.; Dublin: William Curry Jnr. & Co.; London: Smith, Elder & Co., -1835. 2 (525 x 418mm). Engraved title by James Turvey, engraved dedication to David, Earl of Airlie, and 119 finely hand-coloured engraved plates of birds (only, of 124) after Thomas Brown, A. Rider, J.B. Kidd and others, engraved by J. Turvey, S. Milne, R. Scott, W.H. Lizars, and others; 3-page letterpress index. Extra-illustrated with 5 duplicate plates; II Turkey Vulture, CX Gulls, CXVII Geese, CXXIV Guillemots (2 copies). (Lacking the 3-page letterpress index, small tears, not affecting images, to the plates numbered LXXXVII, XCVII and the unnumbered Wild Turkey plate.) Contemporary half morocco gilt, title label on upper cover (worn, covers detached, the majority of the spine lacking).
ONE OF THE SCARCEST COLOUR-PLATE WORKS ON AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGY. A LARGE COPY WITH THE PLATES, GENERALLY EARLY STATES, IN VERY FINE CONDITION. This is an early issue with only three pasted-on corrective slips, highly erratic numbering and 17 plates with no numbering at all. "Among the rarest [works] in ornithological literature" (Faxon 1919), Brown's Illustrations was intended to accompany the first European edition of Wilson's American Ornithology published in 1831 at Edinburgh. A complete copy contains 161 birds not depicted by Wilson and Bonaparte and a further 87 "considerably enlarged" (Ellis); in addition 167 trees and shrubs are included (all of which are identified in the index, lacking in this copy). The plates are the work of the leading engravers of Edinburgh, including W.H. Lizars, who also engraved some of the earliest Audubon plates.
The original sequential numbering of the plates was abandoned quite early on during the work's publication and the confusion was further added to by the deliberate decision not to number 16 of the plates. Brown published these plates separately without numbers in 1834 as Illustrations of the Game Birds of North America. Ellis 389; W. Faxon The Auk 20, 1903, pp.236-41 and 36, 1919, p.626; Nissen IVB, 152; Fine Bird Books p.62; Lysaght, The Book of Birds 88.