Skip to main content

The Avifauna of Laysan and the Neighbouring Islands: with a Complete History to Date of the Birds of the Hawaiian Possessions

London: Taylor & Francis for R.H. Porter, 1893-1900. 3 parts in two volumes, imperial quarto. (14 3/4 x 11 1/8 inches). 55 hand-coloured lithographic plates (53 of birds, 3 of nest and eggs), 6 tinted lithographic views and 2 uncoloured plates of anatomical details, all by and after J.G. Keulemans and F.W. Frohawk, printed by the Mintern Brothers, 20 colotype plates after Williams, printed by Bedford Lemaire & Co. Original publisher's pink wrappers bound in (part 2 front wrapper bound in as the title to the second vol., the other wrappers in the rear of vol. 2). Some repairs to wrappers.

Early half morocco and cloth covered boards, spines with raised bands lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers

The rare first edition of one of the most valuable records of the bird life of Hawaii: limited to 250 copies.

Lord Rothschild explains the genesis of the work in the preface: "I was induced to take a great interest in the fauna of the Sandwich or Hawaiian Islands when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, and Professor Newton showed me some of the wonderful species of birds discovered on those islands by Mr. Scott Wilson [co-author, with Arthur Humble Evans of Aves Hawaiienses: The Birds of the Sandwich Islands. London: 1890-1899]. At the time I had just engaged Mr. Henry Palmer to make a collection of birds, &c., for me on the Chatham Islands ... and determined that if the first trip turned out a success I would send him to the Sandwich Islands. On receipt of a most interesting collection from the Chatham Islands ... I immediately instructed Palmer to start for Honolulu, where he arrived in December 1890, and stayed on the Sandwich Islands until August 1893. During this period he collected 1832 birds on the following islands: - Oahu, Hawaii, Kauai. Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, Laysan, French Frigate Shoals, Lisiansky, and Midway ... Palmer procured all the known resident land-birds ... [with seven exceptions] which are all undoubtedly extinct, and most of the sea-birds. In addition to these Palmer discovered fifteen species entirely new to science, and several birds new to the islands." The majority of the plates are by John Gerard Keulemans (1842-1912), "the major bird book illustrator for 30 years at the end of the 19th century" (Christine Jackson). He is responsible for all the hand-coloured lithographs of birds, whilst Frederick William Frohawk (1861-1946) produced the three coloured plates of nest and eggs, two uncoloured lithographs of anatomical details and 6 tinted views. The remaining collotype plates are from photographs by Williams of Honolulu. As the text on the upper wrapper suggests this work was originally sold by subscription, with each of the three parts costing 3 guineas. The remaining copies that had not been taken up by the subscription were then offered at 12 guineas for the complete work. Forbes gives a detailed collation and it is clear that the intention was that the three parts should be bound into a single volume requiring just a single letterpress title page. The resulting volume would have been quite unwieldy, and the original owner of the present example took the happy decision to bind their copy in two volumes.

Anker 429; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.135; Forbes Hawaiiian National Bibliography IV, 4497; Jackson Lithography p.88; Nissen IVB 794; Wood pp.543; Zimmer p. 532.

Item #35237

Price: $35,000.00

See all items in Books & Manuscripts
See all items by ,