ELLIOT, Daniel Giraud (1835-1915)
A Monograph of the Pittidae, or, Family of Ant Thrushes.
New York: D.Appleton & Co, [1861-]1863. Folio. (21 7/16 x 13 5/8 inches). 1p. dedication to Philip Lutley Sclater, 1p. list of subscribers. 31 fine hand-coloured lithographic plates, heightened with gum arabic, after Elliot (24), Paul Louis Oudart (4), E. Maubert (1), A.Mesnel (1) and one unsigned, drawn on stone by C. P.Tholey and others, printed and coloured by Bowen & Co. of Philadelphia. (Occasional light spotting, small skillfully-repaired tear to blank margin of title).
Contemporary green half morocco gilt by W.S. Hiltz, spine gilt in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second and fourth compartments, repeat decoration in the others, marbled endpapers, gilt edges (expert repairs to spine)
A fine copy of the first edition. A rare and spectacular ornithological work, the first book by Elliot with his own illustrations, and the scarcest of his major monographs.
'Elliot was not his own painter, except among the Pittas. Early in his career, in 1863, he had brought out his book on the Pittidae, or Ant-Thrushes with plates of a delightful... character, after his own drawings.' (Fine Bird Books). Elliot's chosen illustrator, Paul Louis Oudart, died after completing only 3 or 4 plates, and rather than risk a hurried instruction to another artist, Elliot 'felt compelled to turn draughtsman myself' (Preface) and executed all of the other drawings, bar one each by Maubert and Mesnel. The illustrations and indeed the birds themselves represent the pinnacle of Elliot's pictorial work. When a second edition of this work was issued, most of the plates were redrawn by John Gould's artist, William Hart, and the text was completely rewritten. The Pittidae described are native to Borneo, Nepal, Ceylon, the Philippines, New Guinea, and Cambodia amongst other places. Their plumage is rendered in vibrant shades of blues, greens and reds, and the birds (many of whom are shown feeding their young) are placed against beautifully drawn landscapes. Elliot was also careful to ensure that the flowers and foliage shown in detail with the birds were appropriate for the species shown.
BM (NH) I, p.522; Fine Bird Books (1990), p. 95; Nissen IVB 292; Sabin 22228 (noting that only 200 copies were printed); Wood p.332; Whittell pp.225-226; Zimmer p.208.