A Natural History of the Birds of New South Wales…

London: Henry G. Bohn, 1838.

Folio, 26 hand coloured engraved plates; publisher's crimson quarter morocco and cloth boards, preserved in a solander case.

Superbly coloured in gouache

The 1838 edition of Lewin's celebrated book on Australian birds.

The 1838 edition of Lewin's celebrated book on Australian birds.

Although the early editions are important and beautifully illustrated with subtle and delicate colouring, here in the 1838 edition the use of gouache gives a spectacular depth of colour, more often associated with the lithographed bird books of the latter half of the nineteenth century.

John Lewin, Australia's first professional artist, arrived in the colony in 1800 and established himself as the first natural history artist. He is best remembered through the superb books he published on Australian ornithology and entomology.

As the catalogue of the Wettenhall Library pointed out, "The bibliographical and historical importance of Lewin has been emphasised in recent years, but Lewin the naturalist has been somewhat neglected. Although his illustrations are in the style of the eighteenth century and predate the draughtsmanship, finesse and varied palette developed by the great nineteenth-century illustrators such as Lear, Wolf and Keulemans, they are highly competent and show the mind of an excellent observer. Lewin's birds are correct; the feather detail, legs, particularly the positioning of the toes, posture of the bird, the understanding of male and female plumage, the interactions between male and female (in four plates the male is singing and displaying to the female) are accurate and show a keen observer at work. The other important detail in Lewin's illustrations are the plants: they demonstrate an observer who is familiar with his subject's habitat and life-history."

This version of Lewin's work was revised by leading natural history artists of the time: the title page acknowledges the involvement of T. Gould, A. Vigors, T. Horsfield and W. Swainson. This publication differs considerably in colouring from the earlier edition of 1822, as those plates were watercolours whilst these 1838 plates are coloured with gouache, and the entrepreneurial hand of John Gould is evident in this rich gouache colouring. The title page states that this is a "new and improved edition with a list of the synonymes of each species".

Ferguson, 2535; Wood, p. 434.

Condition Report: Joints strengthened and original titled spine expertly laid down; with a nineteenth century heraldic bookplate. a fine copy.

Ref: #5000705

Condition Report