"Established the foundation for the study of North American birds": Rare Complete first edition set of Bonaparte's American Ornithology; Or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States

  • American Ornithology; Or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States.
  • American Ornithology; Or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States.
  • American Ornithology; Or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States.
  • American Ornithology; Or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States.

American Ornithology; Or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States.

Item Number: 95859

Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey, 1825-1833.

Complete first edition set of Bonaparte’s continuation of Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology, with the rare first issue of Volume I with the Mitchell imprint present. Quarto, 4 volumes. Bound in three quarters calf over marbled boards, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, with 27 hand-colored engraved plates after T.R. Peale, A. Rider, and J.J. Audubon. With the rare first issue of Volume I with the Mitchell imprint present. Bonaparte originally conceived the work in three volumes, yet made the decision to publish a fourth volume in 1833, five years after the publication of Volume III. This is the complete set including Volume IV (Bennett 16; Nissen IVB 116; Sabin 6264). In near fine condition, repair to the title page of volume one.

The “father of American ornithology,” Scottish-American naturalist Alexander Wilson is is regarded as the greatest American ornithologist prior to Audubon. Resolved to publish a collection of illustrations of all the birds of North America, Wilson traveled widely, collecting and painting. He also secured subscribers to fund his work, the nine-volume American Ornithology (1808–1814). Of the 268 species of birds illustrated in its pages, 26 had not previously been described. A decade later, Charles Bonaparte, Napoleon’s nephew and himself an accomplished ornithologist “issued his American Ornithology, or The Natural History of Birds Inhabiting the United States, Not Given by Wilson (1825-33), an independent work designed on the same principles as that by Wilson, and therefore regarded as a kind of sequel to that work, for which reason the two works were issued together in subsequent editions” (Anker, 212). Together these works established the foundation for the study of North American birds upon which Audubon created his own monumental work soon thereafter.