(London: John Van Viirst, 1836, 1839). 252 x 158 mm. (10 x 6 1/4"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION in book form.
HANDSOME BROWN PEBBLE-GRAIN MOROCCO, GILT BY J. MACKENZIE & SON (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper), covers framed by dogtooth roll, multiple gilt fillets, and ornate floral garland roll, large central lozenge of fleurons and drawer-handle tools, raised bands, spine compartments with fish centerpiece surrounded by floral vines, gilt titling, turn-ins with floral roll, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. With nearly 400 woodcuts in the text. Front pastedowns with bookplate of John Murray, Newstead, Wimbledon Park; volume I with contemporary fish-related cartoon laid in. Nissen ZBI 4488; Westwood & Satchell, p. 243. Boards with a couple of faint spots of white residue (from leather preservative), isolated faint foxing, but A BEAUTIFUL SET, clean, fresh, and bright internally, with ample margins, in an unworn binding.
This is a very attractively bound copy of a standard reference work on the fish of Britain, authored by a zoologist who came to his field via sporting interests rather than academic pursuits. Yarrell (1784-1856) had little in the way of advanced education, but in his leisure time away from the family book shop he enthusiastically pursued country sports, gaining a reputation as the best shot and best angler in London. He became fascinated with birds and fish, not just as a predator but as a naturalist. He began dissecting, sketching, and preserving specimens; amassed an impressive natural history collection; joined the Linnaean Society; and was a founding member of the Zoological Society. He published several papers before issuing the present work as a series between 1835 and 1836. According to DNB, it was "very favourably reviewed. In this work he paid particular attention to species that were a source of food, and he would often eat the specimens he collected to test whether they might be added to those known to be fit for the table." A supplement, bound in here, was issued in 1839.
Binder John Mackenzie may have been trained by the firm of Staggemeier & Welcher, and he is known to have employed Joseph Zaehnsdorf from 1840-42. According to Howe, he described himself in a circular issued in 1840 as "Bookbinder to their late Majesties King George IVth & King William IVth," as a binder with 40 years of experience, and as a craftsman with one of the largest collections of brass binding tools in London. His work is of very high quality, as the present volumes attest; the Schiff collection had two of his bindings (see items #65 and 66 in "British Signed Bindings").
Our copy was once owned by legendary London publisher John Murray (1778-1843), who brought us the works of Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Washington Irving, and Lord Byron. Our volumes resided on the library shelves at Murray's country home, Newstead in Wimbledon, named in honor of Byron's family seat. That property is now Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. (ST16475)
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PJP Catalog: 78.181