London, Will. Gardiner, Robinsons, Paternoster-Row, 1802-1806.
2 works bound in 4 volumes folio [450 x 280 mm]. 362 plates printed back to front and hand-colored. A few foxing and spotting. Bound in red full straight-grained morocco, gilt fleurons in foliage on the corners, spines ribbed and richly decorated, gilt inner border in the Greek style. A few scratches and restorations on the binding. Contemporary uniform bindings.
A very rare copy of this wonderful work of ornithology, one of 25 printed on large-paper and with reversed impressions. Fine Bird Books, p. 74; Nissen IVB 286 and 288; Zimmer pp. 192-203.
The superb illustration is composed of 362 full-page plates representing birds of varied species. Marked with the watermark J. Whatman 1794 and Ruse & Turner 1801-05, all of them were finely contemporary hand-colored, and show a softer result than the plates of the first edition of 1743-51.
In order to look like original watercolours, they have been printed in reversed impression, a technically ambitious method which provides delicate prints without dish: the engravings have been printed from the original proofs freshly printed and immediately sent again to press with a second leaf of paper. The engravings finally obtained are then in the same way than the original drawing. This method of production of plates was very expensive and was taking a lot of time; it explains the rarity of this kind of copies.
« George Edwards (1694-1773) was born at Stratford, Essex, and received his early education at a public school at Leytonstone, later being apprenticed to a tradesman in … London. Having access to a large library of scientific books Edwards studied these assiduously and, having made up his mind not to enter business, decided to travel abroad. Between 1716 and 1733 he visited many foreign countries but in December of the latter year settled down in London and, through the influence of Sir Hans Sloane, 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).
“At its date of issue the ‘Natural History’ and ‘Gleanings’ was one of the most important of all Bird Books, both as a fine bird book and as a work of ornithology. It is still high on each list”. (Fine Bird Books).
A precious copy, one of 25 printed in reversed impression and on large-paper, of this wonderful work abundantly illustrated with contemporary hand-colored engravings of birds.
Provenance: ex libris J. Griffith Dearden.