WILSON, Alexander (1766-1813)
American Ornithology; or the Natural History of the Birds of the United States ... Plates.
New York & Philadelphia: Collins & Co. and Harrison Hall, 1829. Atlas volume only, folio. (14 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches). 76 hand-coloured engraved plates, heightened with gum arabic, by A. Lawson (52), J.G. Warnicke (21), G. Murray (2), and B. Tanner (1), all after Wilson. Without the three volumes of text.
Later half brown crushed morocco, by The Atelier Bindery, spine with raised bands in six compartments, compartments paneled in gilt
The atlas of plates from the second full edition of Wilson's work. "Science would lose little if every scrap of pre-Wilsonian writing about United States birds could be annihilated" (Coues).
The first edition of Wilson's life-work was published in nine volumes between 1808 and 1814. The present edition was prepared by Wilson's friend and colleague, George Ord. He notes in his preface to the first text volume (text not present here) that he arranged for the plates to be "carefully examined and retouched" by Alexander Lawson, the original engraver of most of the plates. Reading between the lines of Ord's preface, it is clear that he believed the plates in the present edition to be better than the first, and this is the current general view: it is noted in Fine Bird Books that "the plates [are] coloured better," and Wood writes: "The hand-colored drawings in the atlas are from the original copper plates, colored anew by pigments which seem to have been better quality than those used by Wilson." In addition to the coloring, better quality paper was used in this edition, thus avoiding the foxing which almost inevitably mars the first. Thus, this edition of the plates is more desirable than the first.
BM (NH), p.2332; Fine Bird Books (1990) p. 155; Nissen IVB 992; cf. Sabin 104598; Wood p.630.