New York & Philadelphia: Collins & Co. and Harrison Hall, 1828-1829. Three octavo text volumes, plus large folio atlas volume. Text includes 4pp. subscribers list at rear of third volume. Atlas with seventy-six handcolored engraved plates, some heightened with gum arabic, by A. Lawson (52), J.G. Warnicke (21), G. Murray (2), and B. Tanner (1), all after Wilson. Text: Early 20th-century brown three-quarter morocco and marbled boards, spines gilt, leather labels. Extremities rubbed. Light toning throughout; light scattered foxing. Atlas: Modern dark blue half calf and marbled boards. Minor toning and a few spots of foxing, else very good. Overall, a very good set. Item #WRCAM39390B
The second full edition of Wilson's work, with plates in their most desirable form. This is the most important work on American ornithology before Audubon. "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, who improved the work textually by rearranging the work in a systematic order by species and by contributing an important "Sketch of the Author's Life" (pp. vii-cxcix in the first text volume) as well as numerous additional textual notes. He also notes in his preface to the first text volume 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 he believed the plates in the present edition to be better than those in 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 the copy under notice, the colors are very fresh: those of the original are faded and in some cases quite disintegrated." 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 is more desirable than the first. WOOD, p.630. SABIN 104598. BM (NATURAL HISTORY), p.2332. NISSEN (IVB) 992. FINE BIRD BOOKS 114.