EDWARDS, George.

A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, and of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals, Quadrupeds, Reptiles, Fishes, Insects [...]


A Natural History of Uncommon Birds, and of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals, Quadrupeds, Reptiles, Fishes, Insects […]
Exhibited in Two Hundred and Ten Copper-Plates. [With:] Gleanings of Natural History, Exhibiting Figures of Quadrupeds, Birds, Insects, Plants […].
London, Printed for the Author, at the Royal College of Physicians, 1743; 1747; 1750; 1751; 1758; 1760; 1764.

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A fine set in dark blue morocco of “one of the most important of all bird books, both as a fine bird book and a work of ornithology” (Fine Bird Books).

“Though issued separately, they [Natural History and Gleanings] are considered as one and either must rank as imperfect without the other … At its date of issue the Natural History and Gleanings was one of the most important of all bird Books, both as a Fine Bird Book and a work of Ornithology. It is still high on each list …” (Sitwell).

George Edwards (1694-1773), a talented natural history artist, became librarian at the College of Physicians through the good offices of Sir Hans Sloane, who also employed him to draw the curiosities in his private museum. This provided him with both a steady income and plenty of time (his tasks not being very onerous), to pursue his own interests whilst surrounded by volumes on natural history. Edwards had a large circle of friends with an interest in science and he drew and painted the natural history objects owned by them. He kept copies of these drawings, and it was as a result of his wishing to see these drawings preserved in some way that he resolved to publish A Natural History of Uncommon Birds. This proved a success, and thus encouraged, Edwards brought out the Gleanings, although this took many years to complete.

Amongst the species described, many are from India and North America. The Indian specimens were largely based on the watercolours made by Pieter Cornelis de Bevere, a member of the household of Governor Gideon Loten, a Dutchman who settled in England for a while, where his collection was studied by Edwards. The North American birds came from two main areas, Hudson Bay territory and Pennsylvania. In addition there were a few birds from Carolina provided by Catesby.


First edition. Seven volumes, 4to., (12 x 9 3/4 x 3 inches), 362 hand-coloured engravings, sequentially numbered across both works, each engraving with facing letterpress description, text in English and French; occasional light offsetting of plates to text, plates generally quite clean, some scattered light foxing to text. Full late 18th-century blue crushed morocco gilt.


Nissen 286-88; Wood, page 329; Sitwell, page 93.


Stock ID: 91233