A General History of Birds. John LATHAM.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.
A General History of Birds.

A General History of Birds.

London: Bohn, circa 1845.

Eleven volumes (the eleventh the Index) bound in ten, quarto, with 193 handcoloured etched plates, some with 1838 watermarks; contemporary half brown morocco.

The deluxe edition, with plates "like highly finished drawings"

One of the great illustrated bird books, with a remarkable number of species of Australian and Pacific interest. This is the deluxe "Bohn" edition of the set, the revised and expanded second edition, second issue, with the hand-coloured plates that are "like highly finished drawings". Describing this second issue in 1977 Charles Swann of Wheldon & Wesley Ltd. wrote "It would appear that only 25 copies of this edition were prepared". Bohn evidently deliberately set out to raise the quality of the plates; the set is listed in his catalogue of 1847 with a note: "This celebrated work was published at 25 guineas in boards, with the plates coloured in a very inferior manner. The present copies are all coloured like highly finished drawings, with studious accuracy, under the direction of several eminent ornithologists".

One of the great illustrated bird books, with a remarkable number of species of Australian and Pacific interest. This is the deluxe "Bohn" edition of the set, the revised and expanded second edition, second issue, with the hand-coloured plates that are "like highly finished drawings". Describing this second issue in 1977 Charles Swann of Wheldon & Wesley Ltd. wrote "It would appear that only 25 copies of this edition were prepared". Bohn evidently deliberately set out to raise the quality of the plates; the set is listed in his catalogue of 1847 with a note: "This celebrated work was published at 25 guineas in boards, with the plates coloured in a very inferior manner. The present copies are all coloured like highly finished drawings, with studious accuracy, under the direction of several eminent ornithologists".
John Latham (1740-1837) was the pre-eminent ornithologist of his day and a close friend of the leading scientific figures including Sir Joseph Banks, Thomas Pennant and Sir Ashton Lever, with whom he swapped specimens and reports of the latest ornithological discoveries. 'Known as the Grandfather of Australian ornithology, he was the first to describe, and to name scientifically, a large number of Australian birds…' (Whittell, The Literature of Australian Birds). Latham was the right man at the right place and time to work on the newly-discovered Australian species, and was the first to describe more than one hundred new Australian birds, using specimens belonging to Banks and others. He was also largely responsible for the natural history specimens in Phillip's Voyage of 1789.
He first began publishing his General Synopsis of Birds in 1781, but he issued so many supplements over the following two decades that in 1821 he issued the whole work as The General History of Birds. This is the rare second issue of that second, expanded edition, done by the publisher Henry Bohn in the mid-1840s.
The scale of the work is rather incredible, particularly when it becomes apparent that Latham includes almost 450 descriptions of birds from New Holland, with 22 of them beautifully illustrated. The work also includes, where possible, interesting field notes on how the birds where collected and in whose collection they were held, and, as a particularly interesting aside, an attempt has been made to record the Aboriginal names for many of the Australian birds. Generally Latham worked from specimens and field notes collected on the spot, with one notable exception: his plate for the "Variegated Bee-eater Merops ornatus" was taken from John Lewin's Birds of New South Wales (1813), the first illustrated book printed in Australia.
Among the fine illustrations are depictions of the Banksian Cockatoo, the Red-crowned Parrot, the "New Holland Channel-Bill", two Honey-Eaters from around Sydney, and a particularly good image of the Cape Barren Goose with the note that "Mrs. Lewin informs me… that with management, it becomes very tame and familiar, so as to be domesticated with our Common Goose, and that the flesh is well flavoured."
There are also illustrations of 16 birds from New Zealand, five from Hawaii, and another six from the Pacific. A full listing of the Australian and Pacific birds is available on request.

Henry G. Bohn, Catalogue of Books, Volume I, 1847, p. 6; Nissen, IVB, 532; Nissen, SVB, 290; Whittell, pp. 409-12; Wood, p. 427; Zimmer, II, p. 377. See also Christine E. Jackson: 'Bird etchings: the illustrators and their books 1655-1855' (Chapter 8: John Latham, 1740-1837), Cornell University Press, 1985.

Price (AUD): $28,000.00  other currencies     Ref: #3105210

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