The son of the distinguished ornithologist William Lewin, John Lewin
assisted his father with the drawing and engraving of plates for his
father's Birds of Great Britain, London 1789-94. Encouraged by English patrons such as the Duke of Portland, Lady Arden and Dru Drury, John Lewin decided to travel to New South Wales to collect and paint natural history specimens as a profession, the first free artist to do so. He arrived in Sydney in January 1800 and in the following year was unofficial natural history artist accompanying expeditions to Bass Strait and Hunter river, on which he made the first known drawing of a koala, and Tahiti with Governor King, returning to Sydney in 1802. The Lewins lived in Parramatta until 1808, during which period Lewin collected specimens and drew and engraved the plates for his works, assisted by his wife, Maria. A botanical artist herself she also helped support the family by running a tavern 'The Bunch of Grapes' and a store in Sydney. She also coloured engravings and apparently made some of the original drawings for John' work.
John Lewin was the first British artist resident in Australia to document Australian natural history without referring to earlier English artistic convention. 'He may be seen in retrospect to have stood at the very beginning of true 'Australiana' ... as our first resident ornithological artist and author ... he preserved pictorial records and notes of lasting value ... one feels that had he lived to return to England he would still have left part of himself here', Allan McEvey writes in the introduction to the facsimile reprint in 1978 of Lewin9s Birds of New South Wales. During the last years of his life Lewin ran a farm of 200 acres granted to him by Macquarie at Airds, near Campbelltown, as well as an art school. He had hoped to make enough money from his publishing in order to return to England, however he died in 1819 after a 'severe illness' and is buried in Sydney. The intrepid Maria returned with their son to England where she arranged publication of the present and other editions of Lewin's works and in 1825 she was granted an annual pension of GBP50 from the New South Wales Government. Lewin's own name is perpetuated in the name given to one of the Honeyeater family of birds - Meliphaga Lewinii, Lewin's Honeyeater.
H. Bradley Martin, 1906-1988, born in New York, began collecting while he was at Christ Church College, Oxford, where he spent five years between 1924 and 1929. An early interest in the naturalist and author W. H. Hudson drew him towards ornithology, which together with literature was a major part of his library. His collection included an early subscribers copy of Audubon's Birds of America in a specially designed cabinet and Selby's Illustrations of British Ornithology, with original watercolours. See lot 276, sale in these rooms of Bradley Martin's copy of the Sydney 1813 edition of Lewin's Birds of New South Wales