BAIRD, Spencer Fullerton (1823-1887); Thomas Mayo BREWER (1814-1880); and Robert RIDGWAY (1850-1929)
A History of North American Birds ... Land Birds ... [With:] Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. Vol. XII. The Water Birds of North America
Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1875-1884. 2 works in 5 volumes (Land Birds, 3 vols; Water Birds, 2 vols), 4to. (10 1/2 x 8 inches). [Land Birds:] 64 hand-coloured lithographs and numerous illustrations. Extra-illustrated with 36 hand-coloured lithographs after Ridgway. [Water Birds:] 493 illustrations (including 332 finely hand-coloured). Uncut.
Publisher's uniform green cloth, spine lettered in gilt, top edge gilt
Rare deluxe, coloured and extra-illustrated editions of Baird, Brewer and Ridgway's classics of American ornithology.
"This work contains a description of the birds of North America north of Mexico, including Greenland and Alaska. The focus of this work is an account of the life history of the species, to which is added information about the geographical distribution of the birds and a brief description of the eggs and the individual species. Baird and Ridgway supplied the descriptive parts of the work, while Dr. Brewer dealt with the habits of the birds" (Anker).
Little Brown & Co. advertisements confirm that their Land Birds was issued with 64 plates (uncolored at $10 per volume, or coloured at $20 per volume). However, a letter from the librarian at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia published in the October 1902 issue of the Auk reveals the existence of the present deluxe issue of the Land Birds, with additional hand-coloured plates after Ridgway: "While the existence of an edition of this work with these plates may be known to many ornithologists, yet there is no printed record of such, as far as the present writer is aware. No mention of these plates is made in Coues's 'Bibliography' nor in the several reviews of the 'Land Birds' to which I have had access. Dr. C. W. Richmond informs me that Mr. Ridgway has never seen a copy of the work with these plates although he has some loose plates in his possession" (letter from William J. Fox published in The Auk , October 1902). Neither Nissen, Anker, Zimmer nor Sitwell mention this deluxe issue. A contemporary advertisement (in an 1882 edition of The Scientist's International Directory), however, reveals that this deluxe extra-illustrated issue "beautifully colored by hand" was available for $75 in cloth (as here) or $95 in full morocco.
Little Brown & Co. advertisements confirm that their Water Birds was published in both uncolored ($10 per volume) and colored ($30 per volume) issues, describing the latter: "In the hand colored edition of the Water Birds all the illustrations of heads are most exquisitely executed in water colors from patterns prepared by Mr. Ridgway." The in-text illustrations are indeed exceptionally well hand-coloured, with the eyes of the birds finished with gum arabic. (See the advertisement in the 31 May 1884 issue of The Literary World, advertising volume one as just completed and projecting volume two to be published in September). We have only once before encountered a colored issue (the Bradley Martin copy), and considering the cost and labor involved, must have been done in limited numbers.
"One of the great works on North American ornithology and for many years a standard reference ... the first major work on North American birds to supersede Audubon's Ornithological Biography of 1831-39 as a comprehensive general source" (Ellis Collection).
Nissen IVB 63 and 64; Anker 25; Sitwell, Fine Bird Books , page 75; Ellis Collection 137 and 140; Zimmer, p. 34-35.