HAYES, William.

Portraits of rare and curious birds,


Portraits of rare and curious birds,
with their descriptions, from the menagery of Osterley Park.
London, ‘Printed by W. Bulmer and Co. published for the author by R. Faulder’, 1794-[1799]

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A copy of ‘one of the most famous, early coloured illustrations of ornithology’ (Wood).

The plates are after drawings by William Hayes commissioned by Robert Child of Osterley Park and together “form a record of a unique collection … Hayes was the first author systematically to record a single private collection of live birds; such a project was not attempted again until 1846” (Jackson Bird Etchings, p.135). In his ‘Advertisement’, William Hayes notes that the “First number … is the joint exertion” of seven of his 21 children, which was also intended to demonstrate their “early genius” to the public. As Jackson notes, this was a book that was assembled on demand and that this meant that each copy was “a unique collection of plates and text” (op. cit. p.128), using stock plates at hand, re-etching and producing new images if needed, with the plates coloured by different members of the family.

In the mid-1780’s Hayes went to live at Southall, a short walk from Osterley Park. Osterley, remodelled by Robert Adam in the 1760’s, was owned by the Childs. Like the Duchess of Portland, Sarah Child was an enthusiastic collector of exotic birds. When Horace Walpole visited Osterley Park in 1773, he admired ‘the menagerie full of birds that came from a 1000 islands, which Mr Banks has not yet discovered’.

The birds Hayes chose to depict, demonstrate the taste for the exotic prevailing at the end of the eighteenth century, a taste fuelled by news of recent discoveries.


First edition. 2 volumes bound in one, 4to (28.3 x 22.5 cm.), dedication, advertisement, 100 hand-coloured engraved plates of birds after Hayes, his wife and children, contemporary green straight-grained morocco gilt, gilt edges, without the view of the menagerie (as often), bound without title for volume 2, one or two captions shaved,, spine lightly rubbed, an excellent example.


BM(NH) II, p.805; Brunet III, 64; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.105; Mullens & Swann pp.287-288; Nissen IVB 422; Wood p.381 (lacking volume II title and perhaps the dedication); Zimmer p.294 (lacking volume II title and dedication).


Stock ID: 97134