The first book devoted to Indian birds with colour plates

Jerdon, T. C.

Illustrations of Indian Ornithology.

Published 1847
Item ID 76897
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Madras, P. R. Hunt, American Mission Press, [1844]-1847. 4to (30.5 x 23.0 cm). Title page, contents leaf, introduction; 50 originally hand-coloured lithographed plates, each with extensive descriptive text. Contemporary, gilt-bordered brown half calf over linen boards. Spine with five raised, gilt-bordered bands and gilt title. Blue endpapers.

The first book devoted to Indian birds with colour plates, mainly by local Indian artists. Written by the British physician, zoologist (chiefly ornithologist and herpetologist) and botanist Thomas Caverhill Jerdon (1811-1872). "He was a pioneering ornithologist who described numerous species of birds in India. Several species of plants (including the genus Jerdonia) and birds including Jerdon's baza, Jerdon's leafbird, Jerdon's bushlark, Jerdon's nightjar, Jerdon's courser, Jerdon's babbler and Jerdon's bush chat are named after him" (Wikipedia). According to Burton: "Many years ago Dr. Jerdon, the well-known author of 'Birds of India', maintained at this place a staff of native artists, and taught them to paint in a much better style than they had been accustomed to. Before he took them in hand, their art was confined to quaint representations of natives of all castes and callings, and coaches drawn by impossible bullocks, and laden with yellow- skinned Eajahs and Kanees, all painted on talc or on rice paper. But under Dr. Jerdon's teaching these people became apt in faithful and laborious representation of the feathered tribes, and attained a really very high pitch of excellence. With true Hindoo patience, every feather nay, every vane, and cirrus of each feather was separately and truly shown; the pictured bird was a laboured and exact presentment of the bird itself. These also were painted on rice paper or on sheets of talc." Provenance: signature, in an old hand, of Chas J. Smith (perhaps the man who published, in 1925, a Catalogue of second-hand books including recent purchases from the libraries of the late Prof. W.R. Ogilvie Grant[ of the British Museum], chiefly on ornithology ... ) on the front free endpaper recto; and on the front pastedown an armorial bookplate of Henry Rogers Broughton, 2nd Baron Fairhaven, whose library was one of the grandest natural history libraries in the United Kingdom. One plate lightly foxed; spine skilfully re-backed, retaining the original. An excellent, clean copy. Anker 231; Burton, E. F. (1888) An Indian Olio, p. 61; Nissen IVB, 477; Zimmer, p. 335.

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