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The Natural History of British Birds

The Natural History of British Birds

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The Natural History of British Birds

by Edward Donovan

  • Used
  • Very Good
  • Hardcover
  • first
Very Good/None
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This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers.
Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
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About This Item

Very good copy of the first edition in five volumes (later expanded to 10) of this classic of British ornithology.

Complete with 124 beautiful copperplate engravings, drawn, engraved and coloured by the author.

British Birds was originally issued in 50 monthly parts with two plates each, and later published in five volumes in five successive years from 1794-1798. The illustrations were based on specimens in Donovan's personal collections of about 400 species. He paid extravagently for rare birds, buying specimens from collectors and friends, poultry markets, and other museums including John Latham's, Mr Green's of Westminster, and the Leverian.

Complete in five volumes bound in three (Vols. 1 and 2, Vols. 3 and 4, Vol. 5 bound with blank pages at end). The additional Volumes 6-10 were only added 20 years later.

"The paint is laid on so thickly that is frequently impossible to see the engraved lines underneath. The already rich colour is heightened with burnished highlights, albumen overglaze and metallic paint."

Edward Donovan (1768-1837) was an Anglo-Irish naturalist and the author and illustrator of a number of important natural history books on British flowers, birds, shells, insects and animals. A Fellow of the Linnaean Society and the Wernerian Natural History Society, he wrote and illustrated The Natural History of British Insects 1792~, The Natural History of British Birds 1794~, An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of China 1798, The Natural History of British Shells 1799~, An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of India 1800~, The Natural History of British Fishes 1802~, An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of New Holland 1805, etc. He was also a voracious collector, once paying 83 guineas for a rare specimen of a cream-coloured courser, Cursorius cursor, and from 1807 to 1817, he opened his extensive collection to the public as the "London Museum and Institue of Natural History." He died penniless in 1837, bankrupted by his expensive publications and collecting habits, and an acrimonious lawsuit against his thieving publishers, the Rivingtons.

Bound in contemporary green morocco, spines with five raised bands and gilt decoration, leather title and volume labels in red and green, some scuffing and staining to boards, AEG. Bookplates of James Coates Sowerby (1834-1889), a solicitor from Stokesley, Yorkshire. Interior mostly clean, all plates with rich and vibrant hand colour, some slight age-toning and scattered spotting.

A very good set of this classic of British ornithology.


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Florilegius JP (JP)
Bookseller's Inventory #
The Natural History of British Birds
Edward Donovan
Edward Donovan
Full green morocco with gilt spine
Book Condition
Used - Very Good
Jacket Condition
Quantity Available
F. and C. Rivington
Place of Publication
Date Published
Octavo, 24 x 15cm
0.00 lbs
Edward Donovan, British Birds, hand-coloured, copperplate engraving, ornithology, birds, illustration, zoology
Bookseller catalogs
Natural History;
May be a multi-volume set and require additional postage.

Terms of Sale


30 day return guarantee, with full refund including original shipping costs for up to 30 days after delivery if an item arrives misdescribed or damaged.

About the Seller


Seller rating:
This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers.
Biblio member since 2019
Tokyo, Tokyo

About Florilegius

Tokyo-based bookseller specializing in European illustrated books from the 18th to 19th century, mainly botanical, zoological, costume and travel. Also Japanese ukiyo-e and woodblock botanicals, flower arrangement, etc.


Some terminology that may be used in this description includes:

The decorative application of gold or gold coloring to a portion of a book on the spine, edges of the text block, or an inlay in...
Morocco is a style of leather book binding that is usually made with goatskin, as it is durable and easy to dye. (see also...
A new book is a book previously not circulated to a buyer. Although a new book is typically free of any faults or defects, "new"...
Raised Band(s)
Raised bands refer to the ridges that protrude slightly from the spine on leather bound books. The bands are created in the...
All Edges Gilt. Describes a book in which the top, fore edge and bottom of the outside of the pages are decorated with gold...
First Edition
In book collecting, the first edition is the earliest published form of a book. A book may have more than one first edition in...

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