London, privately published, [1835-]1836. Title-page, [xi] pp. [prefaces]; 33 beautiful, originally hand-coloured engraved plates with explanatory text leaves. Contemporary dark green grained full morocco. Boards with double rich gilt borders with floral corner pieces; gilt lines on the edges, and inner gilt lines. Spine with ornamental gilt rectangles and title. All edges gilt.
A rare, beautifully illustrated work by the British ornithologist and artist John Cotton (1801-1849), depicting the birds with their eggs in natural size. In 1835 he published the first 17 plates privately, initially as The Resident Song Birds of Great Britain, followed – in 1836 – by another 16 plates, combining both suites under the present title (this copy), with two prefaces included. The second suite of 16 plates, all dealing with migratory birds, was never published separately, which means that this is in fact the complete first edition; the temporary title page of the first suite being cancelled. Only a few copies of the first suite are known; they contain the text: "The present publication is intended to form a portion of a volume on the Song Birds of Great Britain. The remaining part will comprise the summer-migrant Song Birds...". The work was reprinted in 1838. Both editions are quite rare. This copy includes the contents page of the first work, listing 17 resident song birds, and a second contents page, acting as half-title, The Summer Migrant Song Birds of Great Britain, listing the next 16 bird species. The fine binding is by Thomas Armstrong, Villiers Street, London. One other copy is known with an identical binding. Probably, both were bound on request of Cotton himself. Later, he migrated to Australia and started describing and illustrating the local birds, but his drawings were not published until 1974 (M. Stevenson and D. Tout-Smith, Museums Victoria online). Provenance: four successive owners' inscriptions on the front free endpaper recto. Tissue guards slightly spotted; otherwise very good, clean. A wonderfully preserved copy. Nissen IVB, 206; Wood, p. 301. Not in Anker and Zimmer, underscoring its rarity.