Skip to main content

Beautiful and Curious Birds of the World

Boston: published by the author for the subscribers, October 1880-1883. 7 original parts, folio. (27 x 21 inches). Letterpress title (verso blank), dedication to Joel Asaph Allen (verso blank), contents leaf (verso blank), preface leaf (verso blank), 20 text leaves. 18 lithographed plates only (of 20, 12 hand-colored) by Joseph Smit and others. (Lacking from part I: "Ptilorus paradiseaus" [Rifle Bird of Paradise]; from part II: Cicinnurus regius [King Bird of Paradise]).

Unbound as issued within cloth-backed publisher's paper-covered boards, the upper covers with titling and uncoloured lithographic vignette, within a single modern brown cloth four-fold chemise, all within a modern brown morocco-backed brown cloth box, the spine in seven compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second and third compartments, the others with repeat decoration in gilt

An almost complete copy of a "very rare book" (Bennett), limited to 200 copies. In excellent condition, with beautiful plates on a grand scale including some of Smit's finest work. Only one copy of this work (also incomplete) is listed as having sold at auction in the past twenty-five years.

"In writing the present work I have striven to bring together some of the wonderful examples of the ornithological world, and to illustrate them in such a manner that others besides naturalists may become acquainted with the beautiful forms of bird life which inhabit our globe" (Preface). Given Cory's stated aim it is unsurprising that he has concentrated on the most spectacular bird family of all: the Birds of Paradise and their relatives the Lyre Birds and the Spotted Bower bird. Twelve of the twenty plates are from this group. The other eight include two of the best known extinct bird species: the Dodo and the Great Auk (also included amongst the extinct species is the Labrador Duck). The remaining depict many unusual species, with images of the Kiwi, the Ruff, the California Condor, the Black-headed Plover, and the Sacred Ibis.

Bennett p. 28; BM(NH) I, p. 387; Fine Bird Books (1990), p. 87; McGrath p. 59; Wood 30; Nissen IVB 205; Nissen SVB 109; Zimmer p.137.

Item #20208

Price: $27,500.00

See all items by