Our Collection of Bird Prints


Albin, Eleazar

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Artist and author, Eleazar Albin illustrated and wrote the earliest coloured book on British birds. He drew his material principally from live British avifauna. Albin was more capable as an artist than ornithologist, being a painter in watercolours and supporting himself by giving lessons in that art. It was the beautiful colors in flowers and birds that led him to study natural history. Presented here are hand-colored copper plate engravings published in London, 1731-38.


Audubon, John James

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The beautiful prints from John James Audubon's Birds of America have long been considered one of the most magnificent colorplate folios ever produced. The color aquatints stand as one of the finest achievements in American art.


Barraband, Jacques

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The journeys of British Captain James Cook produced much new knowledge of the civilizations and landscapes of the mysterious and unknown parts of the world, and soon naturalists followed him into these regions to document new discoveries. Francois Levaillant was a dedicated traveler and very skilled ornithologist. His Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux d'Afrique (1796-1808) was produced in six volumes and contained over 300 plates, and featured the study of birds in their natural and proper environment. Artist Jacques Barraband (1767-1809) drew the illustrations for the engraved plates for many of Levaillant's productions, including Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis ... (1801-1806). Barraband was a talented and versatile artist having studied in the Gobelins tapestry works and painted on Sevres porcelain. He was the finest French bird painter of his day and is arguably the best bird illustrator of all time.

Also presented here are plates from Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de Paradis et des Rolliers, Suivie de Celle des Toucans et des Barbus and a separate publication, Histoire Naturelle des Promerops, des Guepiers, et des Couroucous Illustrations in these publications were drawn by Jacques Barraband, stipple engraved by Gremillier, and color printed by Langlois and Rousset then completely finished by hand. They were published in Paris, 1801-1816.


Bolton, James

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James Bolton never succeeded in achieving the notoriety and fame of fellow countrymen like John Gould or John Selby, but his one and only known ornithological work was good science and his observations enlightening. More importantly, his illustrations indicating the birds in their environment are as charming and effective as one could hope for.

Presented here are hand-colored copper etchings from Harmonia Ruralis: An Essay Towards a Natural History of British Song Birds and Their Nests published in London in 1845.


Comte de Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc

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Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was the French naturalist perhaps most responsible for the rise of European interest in natural history during the eighteenth century. His massive 44-volume Histoire Naturelle (1749-1804) set out to organize all that was then known about the natural world. He was the source of important ideas about the distribution of plants and animals around the globe, relationships among species, the age of the earth, the sources of biological variation, and the possibility of evolution.

The numerous illustrations to Buffon's 44 volumes, which began publication in 1749, became the source of information about the visual appearance of creatures that inhabited every continent. A special set of illustrations to the ten ornithology volumes was edited by Edme Daubenton and called Planches enluminees. The prints shown here are a few of the 973 hand colored bird etchings by Francois Martinet and published in Planches enluminees d'histoire naturelle par Martinet... by Le Compte de Buffon between 1765 and 1781.

Martinet was an engineer by profession who turned artist and became one of the most prolific of all bird painters. His illustrations can be identified by their yellow border. Buffon's encyclopedic and empirical method influenced the gathering of knowledge in numerous fields. He organized one of the first experiments to prove that lightning was electrical, basing his metallic lightning rod directly on the work of Benjamin Franklin. As Director of the Jardin du Roi, now called the Jardin des Plantes, in Paris, he became the model of the scientific collector, analyzing living, dead, and fossilized organisms in an effort to understand their anatomy, reproduction, classification, and distribution. He transformed the king's garden into a scientifically significant museum and research center where he gathered data for his writings. His publication of Histoire Naturelle, was the first modern attempt to systematically present all existing knowledge in the fields of natural history, geology, and anthropology in a single publication.

References: Romantic Natural History, Nichols; Fine Bird Books, Sitwell


Elliot, Daniel Giraud

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Daniel Giraud Elliot was an American zoologist and one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History. He was also a curator of zoology at the Field Museum in Chicago. He published a series of color books on birds and animals by writing the text himself and commissioning artists who had formerly worked with the famous bird artist John Gould to provide the illustrations. One of these, Joseph Wolf, a German artist, provided the majority of the spectacular bird renditions.

One of Elliot's productions, A Monograph of the Phasianidae (Family of the Pheasants) (1870-72), is widely considered one of the greatest illustrated bird monographs, featuring extravagently colored birds on large imperial folio sheets. The illustrations capture the spendour and richness of the Pheasant, a most exotic bird that found it's way to America from Asia. Elliot was so impressed with Wolf's incredible work that he dedicated the entire book to him.

Offered here is a rare collection of 4 framed genuine and original Elliot pheasant hand-colored lithographs, each originally illustrated by Joseph Wolf, as well as the original descriptive text from the antique folio enclosed in a pocket on the back of the frame. Each print is mounted using archival methods to protect it, and is framed in beautiful burlwood measuring 25.75 inches x 30.75 inches on the outer dimension. Each mat measures 16.75 inches x 22 inches on it's inside dimension.

Each print includes an illustration of both sexes and varieties included are: Lady Amherst Pheasant, Scemmerrings Pheasant (life size illustration), Reeves's Pheasant, and Yarkand Pheasant (life size illustration.


Gould, John

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John Gould was the producer of the largest and most diverse body of ornithological illustration ever published, and is widely considered one of the greatest figures in bird illustration. In his lifetime, Gould was the force behind 2999 hand-colored lithographs in 14 folio books, as well as smaller plates of birds in the accounts of various voyages of exploration.

He began his career as a self-taught taxidermist. At twenty he was hired as a taxidermist for the Zoological Society of London. By twenty-three he became the societys curator of birds and chief taxidermist. During this time he acquired a collection of birds from the Himalayas and decided to produce a folio of illustrations of these exotic birds. He enlisted ornithologist Nicolas Aylward Vigors to write the text and persuaded his wife Elizabeth to create the lithographic plates from his sketches.

Goulds first book, A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains, included 80 folio plates showing 100 species. Three versions of the book were offered: one entirely hand-colored, one with just the birds in color, and one in black and white. Presumably the variety of price options helped make the book a commercial success, with 298 people subscribing by its completion. Having proven himself capable of managing the entire process on his own, Gould never again sought a professional publisher for his books.

His next book, The Birds of Europe, was issued in 22 parts over the course of five years. For this project he enlisted the help of Edward Lear, already an accomplished bird illustrator. However, Lear is best known for his book of rhymes, The Owl and the Pussycat. Lear and the Goulds drew all of the books 448 plates, with Elizabeth doing most of the lithographs.

For his next project Gould chose to depict birds of a single family rather than a region. A Monograph of the Ramphistidae, or Family of Toucans was published between 1833 and 1835. Toucans were followed by trogons in 1836. Then the Goulds prepared fifty quarto plates for the bird volume of Charles Darwins Zoology of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle.

In 1838 the Goulds traveled to Australia and with the help of zoologist John Gilbert, collected specimens for their next book. The Birds of Australia included 700 plates of about 300 species issued from 1840 to 1848.

Elizabeth Gould died in 1841 after having contributed at least 600 drawings to her husband's publications. The Birds of Australia was completed with the help of lithographer Constantine Richter.

Richter also delineated the 300 plates of Gould's next major project, A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or Family of Humming-birds. Gould recruited William Hart to do the designs and the elaborate hand-coloring. Hart used gold leaf over-painted with transparent oils colors and varnish to create the iridescent quality of the birds plumage.

The Birds of Asia (1850-1883), with 530 plates, and The Birds of Great Britain (1862-1873), with 367 plates followed next. For these books Gould again worked with Hart and Richter as well as successful German bird painter, Joseph Wolf.

Gould's last major work was The Birds of New Guinea (1875-1888), which included 300 plates.

Many factors contributed to Gould's success. He had the good fortune of living in an era of increased interest in biological exploration. He also was able to obtain the services of some very talented artists and lithographers. But ultimately it was Goulds vision and entrepreneurial spirit that made his books so successful.


Lord, Thomas

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Thomas Lord produced Lord's Entire New System of Ornithology in London complete with text and over 111 hand colored copper plate engravings in 1791. It was published during a surge in European ornithology interest.


Manetti, Xaviero

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Xaviero Manetti produced Storia Naturale degli Uccelli in Florence with hand colored copper plate engravings from 1767 to 1776. While it was not a contribution to ornithology, Storia Naturale degli Uccelli was perhaps the finest Bird Book issued to date. In six huge volumes it was a sumptuous publication of the Italian eighteenth century being larger, better engraved and with superior hand-coloring than its predecessors. Additionally, a new effort is made to show them in their natural surroundings rather than just perched on a stick.


Merian Sr., Matthaeus

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Authored by scholar John Johnston, Historia Naturalis was engraved by Matthaeus Merian, Sr. just before his death in 1650. The highly read publication was published in 1653. Presented here are hand-colored copper plate engravings from Historia Naturalis.


Morris, Beverly

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Because of his reputation as a naturalist and a writer, Reverand Francis O. Morris was approached in 1848 by a renowned English printer, Benjamin Fawcett, to write the text for a publication of British birds that Fawcett was painting. Published in monthly installments beginning in 1850, A History of British Birds was a run away success. In 1855, a younger brother of Francis authored British Game Birds and Wildfowl. With a little help from his older brother, Beverley Morris created "A collection of accounts of British game birds, with a statement of the distribution and habits of the species and descriptions of the birds, their eggs and nests, and notes on their value as articles of food." Benjamin Fawcett would also create the wood engravings and print the work in color, a unique process in it's day. Presented here are wood engravings from British Game Birds and Wildfowl.


Nozeman, Cornelius

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Cornelius Nozeman was an apothecary and clergyman. He continued a native Dutch tradition of productive interest in ornithology in his creation of the first comprehensive description of the birds of Holland. When Nozeman died before completing the work, Martinus Houttuyn finished the production. Presented here are hand-colored copper plate engravings originally created in Amsterdam between 1770 and 1829.


Pennant, Thomas

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Thomas Pennant produced The British Zoology in London with hand colored copper plate engravings from 1761 to 1766. With England lagging behind the rest of Europe in ornithological contributions, patriot and well-known English naturalist Thomas Pennant took it upon himself to bring his country up to speed with his publication The British Zoology. It was the first British book to contain color illustrations of birds.


von Wright, M., W., and F.

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Chromolithographs from Svenska Faglar efter Naturen Och Pa Sten Ritade published in Stockholm, 1917-1929.

The von Wright brothers originally published Svenska Foglar...in 1828-38. The work embodied 184 hand-colored lithograph plates. Shown here is the subsequent edition titled Svenska Faglar ... which was based on the original work and published in 105 parts between 1917-1929. This expanded edition incorporated chromolithographs after the original plates, as well as additional plates from the paintings of M., W. and F. von Wright and some important species documented by the Swedish artist Bror Hallberg. The majority of the birds found in Sweden, about 355, are shown while the text by Einar Lonnberg addresses all the species of birds, their geographical distribution, habits and breeding places.


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Miscellaneous antiquarian bird prints.


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Antique Bird Prints