LATHAM, John (1740-1837). A General Synopsis of Birds. London: volume I for Benj. White, vols. II-III for Leigh and Sotheby], 1781-1785, 3 volumes in 6; Supplement to the General Synopsis of Birds, London: for Leigh and Sotheby, 1787-1801-, 2 volumes; Index Ornithologicus, London: for Leigh and Sotheby, 1790-1801, 2 volumes.
Together 10 volumes, 4 (244 x 190mm). 8 etched titles with hand-coloured vignettes, and 142 hand-coloured etched plates by and after the author, tissue guards. (Lower margins of vol. I wormed from title to G1, occasional slight soiling of plates and text, infrequent light spotting.) Contemporary speckled calf (rebacked, preserving old red morocco lettering-pieces, several covers lightly scuffed or pitted). Provenance: Robert Jameson (contemporary ownership inscription to each volume); J. F. Symons-Jeune (bookplate).
FIRST EDITIONS. But for the worming in volume I, a fine copy in a stout binding. Latham's work forms an English parallel to Buffon's Histoire naturelle (1770-83), which was nearing completion when his own publication began, and has the interest of being written when the knowledge of birds from overseas was undergoing a dramatic change. In his division of the birds into two main groups, land birds and water birds, Latham follows the system which Ray employed in his edition of Willughby's Ornithology (English edition, 1678). While the birds are referred to by their vernacular names, the list of synonyms included under each species does include the Linnean name as well, and in the classification of genera the system followed is mainly that of Linnaeus. Anker 277-279; Fine Bird Books p. 87 (*); Nissen IVB 532; Wood p. 427; Zimmer p. 371. (10)