22 March 2000
Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867)
Admiral Robert Mitford (1781-1870, artist and ?etcher). An original etched copper printing plate, titled CURLEW, from Illustrations of British Ornithology [Edinburgh and London: (1821-)1834(-1839)], 545 x 420mm., "R.Mitford" at foot of plate, "Plate XIII" top left, mounted and framed with an uncoloured proof print from the plate.
A VERY FINE "SUPERBLY EXECUTED" ORIGINAL COPPER PRINTING PLATE FROM "THE FINEST AND LARGEST BOOK ABOUT BRITISH BIRDS" (Jackson). The plate was used to print plate 13 of vol.II (Waterbirds). It was apparently etched from a single watercolour (signed by Mitford) which was last sold in the Bradley Martin sale in 1989. The correct scientific identification of the bird is Curlew Numenius arquata (Linnaeus).
"On sixteen of the plates Captain Robert Mitford's clear signature may be seen. He was Mrs. Selby's favourite brother, and later rose to be Admiral of the Red. He made drawings first for Selby, later also for Jardine, and sometimes also etched the plates, having learnt the art from Thomas Bewick. He accompanied the two friends [Selby and Jardine] on shooting and fishing expeditions and was regarded with affection by both. Selby poked gentle fun at "the Captain," as they always called him, in a letter to Jardine dated January 1830. "The Captain is still with us, he has been at a small sea-piece for the last fortnight, but it is no further advanced than when he began, the sea has been painted I believe 15 times." Mitford's "sea-piece" was just one of many paintings he did. All three friends worked in oils and watercolors, and exhibited paintings in Art Exhibitions at Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Dumfries" (op.cit p.204). Cf. BM (NH) IV,pp.1895-1896; cf. Fine Bird Books (1990) p.141; cf. Nissen IVB 853; cf. Zimmer p.571.
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