EDWARDS, George (1694-1773).
A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, and of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals
London: printed by C. Rickaby "for the author" [i.e. William Gardiner and Messrs. Robinson], "1743-1751" [watermarked text 1801-1805, plates 1794-1804]. 4 parts bound in 2 volumes. Titles and text printed on wove or laid paper, two general titles (one in French and one in English) at the front of vol.I with engraved vignettes by Johann Sebastian Müller. 1 hand-coloured etched emblematic frontispiece, 211 etched plates (printed on wove or laid paper, 210 finely hand-coloured, 1 uncoloured etched plate of the Samoyed) all by and after Edwards, woodcut head- and tailpieces and initials.
[With:] EDWARDS, George (1694-1773). Gleanings of Natural History, Exhibiting Figures of Quadrupeds, Birds, Insects, Plants, &c. London: printed by C. Rickaby for "the author" [i.e. William Gardiner and Messrs. Robinson], "1758-1760" [plates watermarked 1803-1805]. 3 parts bound in 2 volumes. Titles and text printed on wove or laid paper, one general title at the front of vol.I with engraved vignettes by Johann Sebastian Müller, letterpress English and French general title and part-titles, text in English and French in double columns, translated by J. du Plessis and Edmond Barker. 1 uncoloured engraved portrait of the author by Miller after "Dandridg," 152 etched plates (printed on wove or laid paper) all finely hand-coloured, by and after Edwards and others. Together 4 volumes. Quarto (11 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches). Uniform contemporary red straight-grained morocco, covers with border of a triple gilt fillet, spines in six compartments with double raised bands, the bands highlighted with gilt fillets and roll tools, lettered in the second and fourth compartments, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges. Provenance: George Savile Foljambe (1800-1869, Osberton Hall, Nottinghamshire, England, armorial bookplate). A spectacular set of "one of the most important of all bird books, both as a fine bird book and a work of ornithology" (Fine Bird Books). This issue, bound circa 1815, benefits greatly from being published at a time when two book-arts were at a high point: the art of hand-colouring was at its most sophisticated and the design and execution of bindings was equally exceptional. The colouring in this issue has the clear jewel-like quality that is a feature of the work of the best colourists of the Regency period. The same period also produced some of best binders since the 17th-century Restoration masters and the present set is a delightfully-understated example of the kind of craftsmanship of which they were capable. Edwards "has been well described as an unscientific but very accurate describer and painter of animal life, and his writings will always remain of paramount authority, from the faithfulness of his description of many new birds, subsequently incorporated in the Linnaean System. He had, says Swainson, the simplicity and piety of Izaac Walton, and may be looked upon as one of our greatest worthies. He retired about 1764 to Plaistow, died July 23, 1773" (Mullens and Swann p.194). "Through the influence of Sir Hans Sloane, [Edwards] was chosen Librarian to the Royal College of Physicians ... Almost immediately after he was appointed ... Edwards commenced the preparation of a series of coloured drawings of animals and birds, used later to illustrate [the present work]; for these he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society and subsequently elected a Fellow" (Lisney p.127). The work was quite successful and went through a number of transformations whilst under Edwards' control, including the issuing of a French text edition. Shortly after he retired in 1769 he sold "to Mr. James Robson, Bookseller ... all the remaining copies of my Natural History ... coloured under my immediate inspection, together with all my copper-plates, letter-press, and every article in my possession relative to it ... and that my labours may be handed down to posterity with integrity, truth, and exactness, I have delivered into his hands a complete set of plates, highly coloured by myself, as a standard to those Artists who may be employed in colouring them for the future" (George Edwards, declaration quoted in Robson's Some Memoirs… of George Edwards, dated May Ist, 1769). [Bound at the end of the second work are:] [J. ROBSON] Some Memoirs of the Life and Works of George Edwards. London: for J.Robson, 1776. Lacking the 4 engraved plates. Zimmer p.529. [And with:] Carolus LINNAEUS. A Catalogue of the Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Insects... contained in Edwards's Natural History ... with their Latin names. London: for J. Robson, 1776.
Cf. Anker 124-126; cf. Fine Bird Books (1990) p.93; cf. Lisney 188, 192-193, 197-198, 200-201, 203, 205, 208, and 211; cf. Mullens and Swann pp. 195-196; cf. Nissen IVB 286-289; cf. Zimmer pp.192-194 and 196-199.