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The New and Heretofore Unfigured Species of the Birds of North America

New York: Published by the Author, [1866-]1869. 2 volumes, large folio. (23 3/16 x 18 1/8 inches). 1p. list of 71 subscribers. 73 hand-coloured lithographic plates (including the additional "Parus occidentalis" plate bound between plates I and II in vol.I; 1 plate by and after Elliot and Joseph Wolf, printed by D. McClellan & Brothers of New York; 72 printed and coloured by Bowen & Co. of Philadelphia, after Elliot [55], Joseph Wolf [15] or Edwin Sheppard [2], drawn on stone by Ch. P. Tholey (11), 'M.P.' (14), 'H.J.S.' (3) or 'L.H.' (1) and others), 21 wood-engraved vignette illustrations, on india paper mounted, by W.J. Linton after Edwin Sheppard.

Contemporary 19th-century green half morocco over green cloth-covered boards, spines lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt

A spectacular work with very fine generally life-size hand-coloured lithographs of species not previously pictured by either Alexander Wilson or John James Audubon, and particularly on birds of the American West, here with an additional plate that is not recorded by the standard bibliographies.

Elliot describes his aims in the preface: "Since the time of Wilson and Audubon, no work has been published upon American Ornithology, containing life-size representations of the various species that have been discovered since the labors of those great men were finished. The valuable productions of Cassin, as well as the revised edition of the ninth volume of the Pacific Rail Road Report, the joint labor of Messrs. Baird, Cassin and Lawrence had indeed appeared ... but no attempt had been made to continue the works of the first great American naturalists in a similar manner ... It was, therefore, with the desire to contribute ... towards the elucidation of the comparatively little known species of the Birds of North America, their habits and economy, as well as to render their forms familiar so far as life-size representation of them might serve to do, that I undertook the present publication." Over half of the plates in the work are devoted to birds of the American west, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the Rocky Mountains, with many of the remaining depicting birds of the Alaskan and Arctic regions. The specimens pictured by Elliot were derived from a number of sources, but included birds brought back from government-sponsored overland expeditions to the West, as well as from private sources such as John Xantus de Vesey. The plates for Elliot's work (with the exception of plate 17 in volume II) were executed by Bowen of Philadelphia, the same lithographer as in Cassin's continuation of Audubon. The project, however, would prove the last for the noted firm, as it closed down shortly after the present work was completed. The plates are taken from originals by Elliot and one of the greatest ornithological artists working in the second half of the nineteenth century: Joseph Wolf. In particular, Wolf's image of the Iceland Falcon (the second plate in volume II) must rank as one of the great bird portraits of all time, and is a worthy successor to the images in Audubon's own masterpiece. The story behind the additional plate is perplexing and illusive. Auction records show that copies with an additional plate have been sold at auction nine times in the past thirty years. These nine appearances represent at least three different copies of the book and possibly as many as eight, so the presence of the 73rd plate in the present copy is not unique. In the text (which does not call for a plate) Elliot notes that the bird which the additional plate pictures ("Parus Occidentalis") it is not a new species at all, but a mis-identified Black-capped Chickadee ("Parus Atricapillus"). If this conclusion was reached by Elliot at a late stage in the book's production then he could have been in the position of having a supply of the plates completed, but with no reason to include them in a book on birds that had not been pictured before. Strangely, none of the standard bibliographies mention the existence of this additional plate.

Anker 129; Bennett, p.39; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.95; Nissen IVB 294; Reese Stamped with a National Character 44; Sabin 22227; Wood p.331; Zimmer p. 205.

Item #33108

Price: $36,000.00

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