The Birds of Australia… [with] The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands… [and] A Supplement to the Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands… to which is added those Birds of New Zealand not figured by Buller. Gregory M. MATHEWS.
The Birds of Australia… [with] The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands… [and] A Supplement to the Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands… to which is added those Birds of New Zealand not figured by Buller.

The Birds of Australia… [with] The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands… [and] A Supplement…
The Birds of Australia… [with] The Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands… [and] A Supplement to the Birds of Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands… to which is added those Birds of New Zealand not figured by Buller.

London: Witherby, 1910-1936.

Altogether 14 volumes, quarto (the three parts of the Checklist bound in vols. 8, 10 and 11; the Bibliography in vol. 12); containing a total of 671 handcoloured plates by Keulemans, Gronvold, Green and Goodchild and 7 uncoloured plates; a superb set in the Mathews "Harlequin" binding of variously coloured moroccos with ornate gilt decorations, morocco inlaid figures, top edges gilt and other edges uncut; the first supplement uncut in wrappers, the second in unbound sheets.

Superb set of Mathews's extraordinary publication, in the famous Harlequin binding

The last of the great colourplate bird books and, next to Gould's Birds of Australia, one of the most lavishly produced of all Australian bird books, or indeed of any kind of publication. This is a splendid set of this classic production, in the much-admired Mathews "Harlequin" binding.

The last of the great colourplate bird books and, next to Gould's Birds of Australia, one of the most lavishly produced of all Australian bird books, or indeed of any kind of publication. This is a splendid set of this classic production, in the much-admired Mathews "Harlequin" binding.

Born in northern New South Wales and educated at the King's School Parramatta, Mathews moved to England as a young man, and lived there for the rest of his life. He made frequent trips back to Australia; his collection of 5000 books on ornithology is now part of the National Library of Australia. In England he was encouraged by Bowdler Sharpe, Keeper of Birds in the British Museum (Natural History) and a leading ornithologist. Over a period of forty years Mathews published over 200 papers on Australian birds, particularly on taxonomy and scientific nomenclature. He "made an intensive study of the skins of Australian birds and the literature concerning them… [and] amassed a large collection of the skins of Australian birds… now in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History, New York…" (Whittell).

The wonderful illustrations to these extensive texts were prepared by the finest bird artists of the time including J.G. Keulemans, H. Gronvold, Roland Green, G.E. Lodge and F.W. Frohawk. In his autobiography Mathews described how the hand-coloured plates were prepared: "All the plates in my book were prepared from skins in my collection… give it to the artist, and tell him the attitude in which I thought it should be drawn… it became the basis for the plate. On the smooth white surface of a properly prepared lithographic stone the artist would copy in detail the original drawing, placing accurately, by count or by measurement, each feather, each scute on the leg, each rictral bristle… [then] he would be engaged in colouring a copy direct from the bird's skin. The paper used throughout… was the best rag paper, made especially for the work…" (Birds and Books. The story of the Mathews Ornithological library, pp. 64-5).

The cost of such painstaking original illustration must have been enormous, and Mathews's Birds was to be the last bird book ever to be illustrated with original hand coloured lithographs - closing an era that had begun with William Swainson's Zoological Miscellany of 1820.

The publication history is confusing but simply, The Birds of Australia appeared in twelve volumes between 1910 and 1927. In 1928 and 1936 two supplementary volumes of the Birds of Norfolk Island were published; typically the second volume here is incomplete, as usual, with 29 of the 30 plates announced for the remaining sections on Norfolk and Lord Howe, and just four of 27 coloured plates planned for the final section of the volume, an addenda to Buller's birds of New Zealand.

::

Anker, 328; Nissen, IVB 605; Nissen, SVB 329: Whittell, pp. 488-504; Wood, p. 454; Zimmer, p. 419.

Condition Report: A couple of the spines more sunned than others (due to varying permanence of different colours); the wrappers of the first Supplement good but somewhat chipped at edges.

Price (AUD): $38,000.00

US$26,302.45   Other currencies

Ref: #5000646

Condition Report