WILSON, Alexander (1766-1813), and Charles Lucian BONAPARTE (1803-1857)
American Ornithology; or, the Natural History of the Birds of the United States ... With a sketch of the life of Wilson, by George Ord ... and a classification of the genera and species of American birds by Spencer F. Baird
Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, [no date, but 1871]. Text only: 3 volumes, octavo (10 3/16 x 6 5/8 inches). Small format errata slip at the start of the 'introduction' in vol.I. Occasional illustrations. (Lacks the section title to Bonaparte).
Contemporary brown half morocco over dark maroon morocco-grained cloth-covered boards, spines in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in gilt in the second and fourth compartments, the others with simple repeat decoration in blind, gilt edges.
The revised text to this late edition of Wilson and Bonaparte's important work, without the two folio volumes of plates.
Alexander Wilson was the first ornithologist to undertake a systematic study of the birds of America. Wilson, who was born in Scotland, turned to the study of American ornithology full time in 1802 under the tutelage of William Bartram. At the time of the appearance of the first part of his grand work in 1807, no similar study in any branch of natural science had yet been undertaken in America, and only one colour-plate book of any scope had been published in the infant nation (Birch's Views of Philadelphia). Between 1808 and 1813 Wilson managed, after overcoming innumerable difficulties, to travel over much of the United States collecting material whilst also managing his ambitious publication. He died in 1813, exhausted by his task, and the final parts of the first edition of his work were eventually seen through the press by his friend George Ord. Ord went on to issue a well-regarded reprint published in 1828-1829. After the defeat of Napoleon, various members of the Bonaparte family took refuge in America, including his nephew, Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte. The young Bonaparte proved to be an ornithological prodigy, and undertook the writing of a supplement to Wilson, which was completed in 1833. Frank L. Burns, in his bibliography of Wilson, writing of the present edition, notes that it is "a reprint of Ord's fine 1828-29 edition, with the interpolation of Baird's Catalogue of North American Birds, reprinted from the 8vo edition of 1858, and the addition of Bonaparte's work."
Cf. Anker 533; Frank L. Burns, "Alexander Wilson. [Part] VII: Biographies, Portraits, and a Bibliography of the Various Editions of his Works", copy 'q', in The Wilson Bulletin, Vol. XXI, No. 4 (December, 1909), pp.184-5; Nissen IVB 997; cf. Wood p.631.