HENRY EELES DRESSER (1838-1915)
A History of the Birds of Europe, including all the species inhabiting the Western Palaearctic Region. London: Taylor and Francis for the author, 1871-1896. 9 volumes including index (vol.I) and the supplement (vol.IX), large 4 (316 x 248mm). Additional pictorial titles. Text with printed pagination, plates with printed plate numbers, 723 lithographic plates, 721 hand-coloured, by M. & N. Hanhart, Walter and the Mintern Brothers after J.G.Keulemans, Joseph Wolf and E.Neale, the colouring by Smith and W. Hart. (Very occasional light spotting to plates.) Contemporary dark brown half morocco, the spines in six compartments with raised bands, tooled in gilt and blind (the supplementary volume bound to match but with different marbled paper used on the covers and a different tool employed on the spine), top edge gilt (light scuffing to extremities). Provenance: E.H.B. Neill (armorial bookplate).
A FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, based on Dresser's collection of 12,000 bird skins. Dresser was the quintessential late-Victorian amateur. A successful businessman, he was also very active in the ornithological world, joining the British Ornithologist's Union in 1865, and served as Secretary between 1882 and 1888.
The Birds of Europe was originally published in 84 parts between 1871 and 1882, and a further 9 supplementary parts appeared in 1895-1896. The text was begun by Dresser in conjunction with Dr. R. Bowdler Sharpe, however the latter's involvement ended with the 12th part, when he took up an appointment at the British Museum. The plate total includes an additional plate not called for in the plate lists, but mentioned in the text: the Little Gull (Larus Minutus), in vol. VII, is represented by two plates numbered 599 and 599A, showing the male bird in both summer and winter plumage. Henry Seebohm's contemporary opinion of this work is that it "is by far the best book which has hitherto appeared on European Birds" (inscription in lot 182 Christie's 11 Nov. 1992). The first part appeared in March 1871 and the final part of the supplement was not issued until November 1896. Anker 120; Fine Bird Books p.72; Nissen IVB 267; Zimmer p.177. (9)