Illustrations of British Birds. Volumes I – IV. [First folio edition – Complete].
Item ID 72722
London, Longman, 1835-1850. Four volumes in four. Folio (35.6 x 26.2 cm). Four engraved title pages, four engraved indexes; 322 fine hand-coloured lithographed plates, of which 317 show birds (and often eggs too); and five eggs only [I: 79 bird plates (index calls for 78), one egg plate; II: 74 bird plates, one egg plate; III: 81 bird plates (index calls for 80), two egg plates; IV: 83 bird plates (index states 82), one egg plate]. Bound in uniform later half calf over marbled boards. Spines with five broad, raised, gilt-ornamented bands; compartments with two morocco labels with gilt title and volume number, and with gilt ornithological vignettes. Red endpapers. All edges gilt. One of the few books (besides Audubon's Birds of America , elephant folio edition) that has ‘its own’ book: published in 2007 it was written by the ornithologist Prof. W.G. Hale who cleared all the confusion around Meyer's principal work. In 2012, Prof. Hale published another book on the popular edition Coloured Illustrations of British Birds and their Eggs , which also contained more information on the folio Illlustrations . The folio Illustrations is Meyer’s magnum opus and in fact he published little else except a book on game birds. Most plates were prepared from watercolours by his wife, Mary Anne Moor. Mary Anne is regarded by Hale as a better artist than Meyer himself. In fact, the work is probably more accurately described as a joint effort. Meyer in all likelihood prepared most of the outstanding lithographs. This copy is in the rare first edition, of which no more than 35 copies were sold by the trade, and perhaps another 35 sold by Meyer himself. Up to five ‘editions’ were published, but these are not true new editions, rather alternate editions with now and then a plate added or replaced. All plates in this copy are of the true first edition. An entirely different edition, in a much-reduced form, is more common but no match. The suppressed ‘dead female’ plate of the blackbird is present, along the replacement plate showing both sexes alive. There are two different grey heron plates, as more often, as well as two plates for the northern diver, the second showing the young and egg. The ‘true’ egg plates are as follows. Volume I: golden eagle and white-tailed eagle; II: magpie and bittern; III: sandpiper and hawk owl; land rail and pheasant; IV: woodcock and guillemot. The luxurious 20th-century bindings are very neatly done. Occasional - mostly light - spotting to several plates, but most plates quite clean, which is unusual. Much information for this description was taken from Prof. Hale’s first book, his paper in Rare Book Review (Dec/Jan 2008), and from personal conversations with Prof. Hale. Anker, p. 58; C. E. Jackson, Bird Illustrators , pp. 59-62; Nissen IVB, 628; Wood, p. 462. A very good, attractive set of the first edition, with the two different blackbird plates