(Edinburgh: Frazer & Co.; Dublin: William Curry Jnr. & Co.; London: Smith, Elder & Co., -35). 688 x 533 mm. (27 x 21"). Engraved title, engraved dedication to David, Earl of Airlie, and  leaves, followed by plates. THE COPY BELONGING TO THE DEDICATEE.
Excellent contemporary green morocco, covers elaborately panelled in gilt and blind, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with floral frames, gilt titling, turn-ins with gilt Greek key roll, leather hinges, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt (very expertly rejointed, older repair to torn leather on lower cover). 124 SPECTACULAR HAND-COLORED ENGRAVED PLATES OF BIRDS after Thomas Brown, A. Rider, J. B. Kidd and others, engraved by Samuel Milne, James Mayson, Wm. Davie, R. Scott, W. H. Lizars, and others, 69 of the plates with slips correcting the numbering pasted onto the upper right corner of the plate area, all with bound-in guards. Front pastedown with shelf label from the Cortachy Castle Library of David Ogilvie, 9th Earl of Airlie. A Large Paper Copy. Sitwell, "Fine Bird Books," p. 82 ("very rare"); W. Faxon, "The Auk" 20 (1903), pp. 236-41 and 36 (1919), p. 626. Not in Anker or Ayers/Zimmer. Extremities a little rubbed, spine lightly scuffed, a couple faint scratches to boards, but the mammoth binding still sturdy and pleasing, and A BEAUTIFUL COPY INTERNALLY with only the most trivial imperfections, the plates clean, fresh, and bright with vibrant colors, and the margins immense.
This splendid volume is surely the most desirable copy anywhere of perhaps the rarest large-format illustrated work on American ornithology: it belonged to the book's dedicatee and is one of a very few elephant folio, Large Paper, deluxe copies with additional hand coloring. According to Faxon, the book, even as a "regular" copy, is "among the rarest [volumes] in ornithological literature." Brown's "Illustrations" was intended to accompany the first European edition of Wilson's "American Ornithology," published in 1831 at Edinburgh without illustrations. Faxon notes, "Brown's book is not in any true sense an edition of Wilson and Bonaparte. It is composed partly of original figures, but in a large measure is compiled from the works of Wilson, Bonaparte, Audubon, Richardson and Swainson, and Jardine and Selby." The work includes 161 birds not depicted by Wilson and Bonaparte and 87 plates re-engraved in a larger format than the originals. Brown also added 167 trees and shrubs (all of which are identified in the index) to the images. The plates are by some of the leaders in the field, including W. H. Lizars, who also engraved some of the earliest Audubon plates. In Faxon's words, "As specimens of the engraver's art these plates exemplify the best work of the then leading engravers of Edinburgh . . . . That a very small edition of Brown's work was published is evinced by its excessive rarity at the present time. The book was not of a character to meet any real want, and moreover it entered into competition with the great work of Audubon's then publishing." The colorists were just as talented as the engravers, applying the paint delicately and exactly. The size of the plates here, with their spacious margins, and the richness and detail of the coloring, makes an extraordinary visual impact. Originally issued in 26 parts, the initial sequential numbering of the plates was abandoned quite early during the work's publication, and 16 of the plates were deliberately left unnumbered. This haphazard numbering was corrected by the publisher with pasted-on slips, as seen in the present set. Contemporary advertisements reveal that the work was published in folio, both colored (at 15s per part) and uncolored (10s 6d), as well as "a few in elephant folio, (same size as Selby's British Ornithology) colored" and priced 1 guinea per part. In his 1919 census, Faxon was able to locate just a single example of the elephant folio, being sold by London bookseller Walter T. Spencer, though it lacked six plates. Describing that copy, he observes that the plates "are colored (especially as regards the landscape accessories of the water-bird plates) more skillfully than in the smaller folio issue." The coloring is indeed more elaborate than the regular issue, with skies and clouds added in the backgrounds of many plates. We have been unable to locate a single elephant folio copy appearing on the market since that time; our copy is six inches taller than the last sold at auction, in 2004. A copy measuring 20 3/4" high (our copy being as wide as that one was tall) sold in 1997 for $76,750. The present example is from the library of the dedicatee, Scottish peer David Ogilvie (or Ogilvy), 9th Earl of Airlie and Lord Lieutenant of Forfar (1785-1849). It is possible the Scottish-born Brown (1785-1862) came to know Ogilvie when he served in the Forfar and Kincardine Militia, achieving the rank of captain. The wealthy Ogilvie would have been a logical person to approach about subsidizing this undertaking. (Lhi21005)
Add to Cart Price: $225,000.00
PJP Catalog: Natural History.004