Edward Donovan (1768-1837)
The Natural History of British Birds. London: Printed for the author and for F. and C. Rivington, 1799-1819. 10 volumes, 8 (230 x 136mm.) 244 Fine hand-coloured engraved plates, by and after Donovan. (Some occasional slight spotting.) Contemporary tree calf gilt (expertly rebacked, all except vol.II with original spines laid down, extremities rubbed). Provenance: Devon-Exeter Institution (library stamps); C. Robert Bignold (armorial bookplate); Hugh Fattorini (bookplate).
A TALL SET, THE BIGNOLD-FATTORINI COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, mixed issue: vols.I-V second issue with new titles, vols.VI-X first issue. The engravings and text are identical to the first issue as indicated by the watermarks in each volume. Donovan's British Birds was issued in fifty monthly parts and the specimens illustrated all came from his own extensive collection. According to Donovan this contained more rare and unusual British birds than any contemporary public collection and in an attempt to ease a worsening financial situation he later opened it to the paying public. Donovan devised an innovative way of displaying the avifauna: he did not, as many of his contemporaries did, create random accumulations of various species but rather grouped male and female of the same species together with nests, eggs and young. "The more brightly coloured male were chosen for the portraits: no females or young were shown. The hand-coloring of these birds was delicately and beatifully done, giving the book copnsiderable artistic merit. He painted the figures smoothly with gouache. The foreground of tree branches, grass, and stones were also coloured": C.Jackson.Bird Etchings pp.181-189; Nissen IVB 257; Mullens & Swann pp.172-174; cf. Fine Bird Books p.72. (10)