WILSON, Alexander (1766-1813). American Ornithology; or, the natural history of the birds of the United States. Edited and completed by George Ord. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1808-1814.
9 volumes in 3, 2° (344 x 260mm). 76 hand-coloured engraved plates after Wilson by Alexander Lawson, G. Murray, Benjamin Tanner and J.G. Warnicke, subscribers' list at end of vol. IX. (Plates offset onto text, browning to many plates, heaviest in first volume, several plates trimmed within platemark at head or foot, a few images slightly cropped.) Contemporary green morocco gilt by Charles Lewis, covers panelled in gilt, spines in 6 compartments, raised bands, lettered and numbered in two, the rest elaborately tooled, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges (some light scuffing). Provenance: Beriah Botfield, purchased from Payne & Foss for £35.0.0 (P. & F. Acquisitions, p. 96).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE of this pioneering work by the 'father of American ornithology'. Wilson's original drawings and paintings of birds, translated into attractive plates by Lawson, and detailed observations of their habits and habitats combined to produce 'the first truly great American ornithology and also the first truly outstanding American colour plate book of any type' (Bennett), predating Audubon. The Payne & Foss Acquisition list notes, 'Of this accurate and interesting work, a very limited impression was taken and it is consequently of rare occurrence in this country.' and records that the original 9 volumes were rebound in 3 by Charles Lewis at a cost of 6 guineas. The numerous figures represent 262 species of birds, 39 of which were new to science and 23 reidentified. This copy accords with the first issue, with the preface dated October 1st 1808. Anker 533; BM(NH) V, p.2332 (revised 1824 edition); Bennett 114 (described as royal 4°); Fine Bird Books, p. 155; Nissen IVB 992; Zimmer p.679. (3)