(Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep; Samuel F. Bradford, 1808-14; 1824). 353 x 270 mm. (14 x 10 5/8"). Nine volumes. FIRST EDITION of volumes I-VI and IX (with Sabin's First Issue points for volume I); volumes VII-VIII from the reissue of 1824.
19th century red straight-grain morocco, gilt and blind-tooled borders, raised bands, compartments tooled and lettered in gilt, gilt dentelles. WITH 76 FINE HAND-COLORED PLATES AFTER ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR. Title page and a few other leaves with small embossed stamp of the Pavlovsk Museum (in Cyrillic), Vol. I with the bookplate of Herbert McLean Evans on pastedown, some evidence of removed bookplates or labels in a few volumes. Fine Bird Books, pp. 155-57; Anker, pp. 211-12; Zimmer, pp. 679-81; Bennett, p. 114; Reese 3; Sabin 104596 & 104597. Edges and corners a bit rubbed, spines slightly sunned, some faint scratches and a few minor stains on the boards, but THE ORIGINAL UNRESTORED BINDINGS REMARKABLY WELL PRESERVED AND ALTOGETHER ATTRACTIVE. Some minor offsetting from the plates, a touch of soiling to title page of volume I and plates 23 and 24 in volume III, about half the pages in volume VI noticeably foxed and toned (as in all copies we could trace, because of different paper stock used), but the other volumes IN UNUSUALLY FINE, BRIGHT, CLEAN CONDITION INTERNALLY, AND ALL OF THE PLATES (even those in the sixth volume) CLEAN, SMOOTH, AND PLEASING.
This is an unusually attractive contemporary copy of a foundational work in the study of birds, the first scientific work with color plates published in America, and the inspiration for Audubon's epoch-making work on the subject. Although a few books on American ornithology were published in Europe prior to the present work, this set was far superior both in artistry and in the quality of the scientific information it contained. It was also enormously influential to generations of ornithologists that came after Wilson. Serendipitously, as DNB tells us, Wilson (1766-1813) actually met Audubon on a trip in 1810, during which the author gathered sketches of new birds and advertised the volumes he had already published. Although Audubon lacked the funds to purchase a set, "seeing what Wilson was achieving inspired [him] to publish his own illustrations after Wilson's death." We may hardly wonder at the young Audubon's amazement; according to Bennett, this was "the first truly outstanding American color plate book of any type" and is "absolutely basic as a collectors' item, [while being] somewhat unjustly overshadowed by the enormous and more beautiful Audubon giant folios, actually printed in Great Britain." Volumes I-VII were all published during the author's lifetime, while Volumes VIII-IX were issued after his death by his friend and editor George Ord (who wrote the text for the final volume, though using Wilson's original plates). Ord (1781-1866) later reissued Volumes VII-VIII in 1824 with revised nomenclature and other changes to the text. Our copy contains these two reissued volumes, along with the first editions of the others. (Apparently this make-up is not uncommon--Zimmer notes the same composition in the Newberry's copy.) Our set has a distinguished provenance, containing the stamp of the Pavlovsk Museum, once a great palace constructed by Catherine the Great for her eldest son. The more recent bookplate belongs to the noted embryologist Herbert McLean Evans (1882-1971), whose vast collection of books related to science and medicine went mainly to the Harry Ransom Center. This work is almost always found with significant browning and foxing; in our set, only Volume VI contains such condition issues (as is virtually always the case), while the remaining volumes are remarkably well preserved. (ST13994)
Add to Cart Price: $24,000.00
PJP Catalog: CA18BF.036