SITWELL, Sacheverell, Handasyde BUCHANAN, and James FISHER. Fine Bird Books, 1700-1900 … With a Foreword by S. Dillon Ripley. New York: Dai Nippon Printing Company, Limited for The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990.

Quarto (301 x 227mm), pp. xi, [1 (illustration)], 180. 52 full-page colour-printed illustrations after Eleazar Albin, John James Audubon, Mark Catesby, Edward Lear, Prideaux John Selby, et al., monochrome tailpieces. (Some very light marginal browning.) Original dark-blue cloth, light-green endpapers, dustwrapper with illustrations after Lear and Audubon. (Dustwrapper slightly faded on spine and outer parts of panels, slightly cockled, and lightly rubbed and bumped at edges.) ProvenanceQuentin George Keynes (1921-2003, his characteristic purchase note ‘Q p[ai]d $65’ on front free endpaper).

Second, revised and enlarged edition. Fine Bird Books, 1700-1900 by Sitwell, Buchanan, and Fisher was first published in 1953 in an edition limited to 2,000 copies and was intended to ‘show a selection of the best illustrations from old natural history books with coloured plates, together with an account of these books and their creators, which represent what might be called the golden age of the natural history book’ (p. 1). The original work comprised an introductory essay by Sachaverell Sitwell, followed by a bibliography of the subject by Buchanan and Fisher, and for this new edition the text was both revised and enlarged with the addition of an introduction and appendix on print-making techniques (both from Buchanan’s Nature into Art), a foreword by the noted American ornithologist and bibliographer Sidney Dillon Ripley, and an updated ‘Reference Bibliography’. 

This copy was previously in the collection of the explorer and bibliophile Quentin Keynes, who was a great-grandson of Charles Darwin and collected a remarkable library relating to travel and natural history. Most of his library was sold by Christie’s in a series of four auctions in 2004, and the sale of natural history books (8 April 2004), included a number of the works described here.


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