MEYER, Henry Leonard (d.1864). Illustrations of British Birds. London: Longmans, [1837-44].
4 volumes bound in 3, 4o (375 x 275 mm). 320 hand-colored lithographic plates after Meyer by the author and Mary Ann Moor Meyer (scattered foxing, heavier foxing overall to approximately 100 plates). Lithographic title-pages, 4 leaves lithographic list of plates. Contemporary half calf gilt, marbled boards, spines richly gilt, by Riviere (spines faded, hinges rubbed, wear at extremities).
Provenance: F.C and J.C. Brooke, original subscriber(s?) (correspondence from the author and others bound in at front, see below).
FIRST EDITION, SUBSCRIBER'S COPY, WITH FINE ASSOCIATION MATERIAL RELATING TO THE BOOK'S PUBLICATION HISTORY
The letters by Meyer and Birnstead, Mr. Brooke's bookseller in Holborn, discuss the possibility of including letterpress descriptions in the volume. The bookseller suggests to Brooke that more letterpress might be issued if a sufficient number of subscribers sign on to the project. Birnstead asks Brooke to subscribe and the present set is that for which Brooke signed on. Meyer corrects the assumption about the letterpress, however, writing, "There never was any letterpress intended, which the description below the subject of each plate explains, and when the first part of ten proposed, was brought out in order to gratify the wish of many subscribers most of these... declined to take it in." Constance Meyer, who managed her father's belongings after his death in 1864, communicates to J.C. Brooke [presumably the former's son] that she is sending the titles and list of plates for his copy of the book, and expresses interest in knowing if he has all of the plates. She later writes that she will supply him with those of the fourth volume that he lacks, including two "such as we have done for other copies of late."
This last remark illustrates the complicated bibliographic history of Meyer's work. Meyer's undated note states definitively that the work was complete in 78 parts (rather than 79 as stated by Wood), but the irregular fashion in which the various editions were issued and the exact dates of publication are obscure (the title pages are undated). The first issue is said to have 313 plates, while the second issue has an additional 7 plates. The present copy has the 320 plates called for in the second issue, but it is assumed from the correspondence that this copy was completed after the death of both the author and the elder Brooke. Mullens and Swann describe the practice of completing sets after Meyer's death: "The whole subject is attended with utmost difficulty, hardly any two copies of the folio (imp. 4to) editions of the Illustrations being alike. This is owing to the fact that many extra plates were coloured and added to copies executed for friends of the Meyer family. The difficulty is added to from the fact that there were certainly two, possibly three issues of the first edition of the folio, and that the later ones were being published before the first was complete, the plates often being interchanged or duplicated." The present set and its association material testifies to the complicated publication history of a work which Wood states "with the possible exception of Lord Lilford's Birds... is the finest and most complete atlas of portraits of British avifauna (with their eggs) ever published."
Ayer/Zimmer, p.433; Fine Bird Books, p.93; Mullens and Swann 398; McGill/Wood, p.462; Nissen IVB 627.
MEYER, Henry Leonard. Two autograph letters, one signed ("H Meÿer"), to an unnamed correspondent [but apparently F.C. Brooke], Chertsey Surrey, 20 November n.y. and 25 December 1847. Together 3 1/4 pages. -- MEYER, Constance, the author's daughter. Six autograph letters signed ("Constance Meÿer") to J.C. Brooke [apparently the son of the previous], Clapham Common and Bristol, 1 December 1879-1 June 1880. Together 14 pages. -- BIRNSTEAD(?), W. Autograph letter signed to F.C. Brooke, Holborn, July 1848. 3 pages. -- ALLAN, R. Autograph letter signed ("R Allan") to J.C. Brooke, n.p., 14 July 1880. 1 page. Each 8o, inlaid into 5 leaves and bound in at front of volume I. (3)