George Edwards (1694-1773)
A Natural History of Uncommon birds, and of some other rare and undescribed Animals, Quadrupeds, Reptiles, Fishes, Insects, &c. London: for the Author, [1739-]1743-1751. 4 volumes in two, 4 in 2's (290 x 230mm.) Bound with the titles and text to the French edition, general titles in vol.I with engraved vignettes. Uncoloured engraved portrait of the author by J.S. Miller after B. Danbridge, hand-coloured etched frontispiece, 211 etched plates (210 hand-coloured, 1 uncoloured 'Samoyed' plate), extra-illustrated with a duplicate 'Samoyed' plate. (Plate 47 shaved with slight loss, hand-coloured frontispiece [?]supplied from another smaller copy, some spotting, occasional light offsetting of plates onto text.)
[Uniformly bound with]
George EDWARDS. Gleanings of Natural History, exhibiting figures of Quadrupeds, Birds, Insects, Plants, &c. London: for the Author, [1758-]1760[-1764]. 3 volumes in two, 4 in 2's (290 x 230mm.) Parallel titles and text in English and French (with duplicate English title to the third volume). Engraved title vignette and 1 tail-piece, 152 hand-coloured etched plates (most plates in vols.II and III numbered in contemporary manuscript hand). (Lacking English title to the third volume as bound in two volumes, portrait of the author bound at front of first work, some spotting and occasional light offsetting of plates onto text.) The 4 volumes in uniform late eighteenth century red straight-grained morocco gilt, covers with wide decorative border in gilt and blind, spine in six compartments with double raised bands, lettered in gilt in the spaces between each pair of bands, the compartments with elaborate overall repeat pattern in blind, built up from various small tools, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers (some discolouration to leather of spines and at extremities). Provenance: 'Lillie' (presentation inscriptions, dated 1893, from 'Papa'); D.L. James (bookplate by Austin Osman Spare).
A FINE SET IN A SUMPTUOUS BINDING OF ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY NATURAL HISTORY WORKS. The works are now considered as one. "At its date of issue, the Natural History and Gleanings was one of the most important of all Bird Books, both as a fine bird book and as a work of ornithology. It is still high on each list." (Fine Bird Books.) The present work has yet to be fully described bibliographically. A large number of possible variants exist, but what is certain is that it was hugely successful and went through a number of transformations whilst under Edwards' control, including the issuing of French text. Shortly after he retired in 1769 he sold "to Mr. James Robson, Bookseller...all the remaining copies of my Natural History...coloured under my immediate inspection, together with all my copper-plates, letter-press, and every article in my possession relative to it...and that my labours may be handed down to posterity with integrity, truth and exactness, I have delivered into his hands a complete set of plates, highly coloured by myself, as a standard to those Artists who may be employed in colouring them for the future" (George Edwards, declaration quoted in Robson's "Some Memoirs...of George Edwards", dated May 1st, 1769). Robson continued to issue sets, again with various changes, and a final edition appeared in 1802-1806, published by W. Gardiner and Messrs. Robinson.
"George Edwards was born at Stratford, Essex, and received his early education at a public school at Leytonstone, later being apprenticed to a tradesman in...London. Having access to a large library of scientific books Edwards studied these assiduously and, having made up his mind not to enter business, decided to travel abroad. Between 1716 and 1733 he visited many foreign countries but in December of the latter year settled down in London and, through the influence of Sir Hans Sloane, was chosen Librarian to the Royal College of Physicians...Almost immediately after he was appointed...Edwards commenced the preparation of a series of coloured drawings of animals and birds, used later to illustrate [the present work]; for these he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society and subsequently elected a fellow." (Lisney p.127) He retired about 1764 to Plaistow, died July 23, 1773, and was buried at West Ham." (Mullens and Swann p.194). Anker 124-126; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.93; Lisney pp.128-144; Mullens & Swann p.195; Nissen IVB 286-288; Zimmer pp.192-198. (2)