BEWICK, Thomas.

History of British Birds.

Vol. I containing the History and Description of Land Birds [Vol. II containing the History and Description of Water Birds.] [Together with:] A General History of Quadrupeds. The Second Edition. The Figures Engraved on Wood by Thomas Bewick.

Newcastle upon Tyne: S. Hodgson, R. Beilby and T. Bewick, 1797-1804 & 1791 Stock Code: 149228
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First edition of the Birds, Second edition of the Quadrupeds; an attractive set of Bewick's classic natural history works copiously and characterfully illustrated with studies of the animals by Thomas Bewick.

It was the General History of Quadrupeds (1790) which ensured "Bewick's national reputation was fully established" (ODNB), and confirmed his place as the finest wood engraver of his age, and indeed perhaps the most influential of any age, rescuing the craft from supplying poor-quality engravings in cheap books to a high level of art and dexterity. The animals depicted, ranging from rabbits to kangaroos and hippos, sit alongside Bewick's idiosyncratic vignettes of country life. Bewick built on the reputation he gained from this work to publish his British Birds in 1797 and 1804, which was received with equal acclaim, and his imitators ensured that wood engraving saw a marked increase in quality and respect in the coming decades.

One of the most celebrated of British bird books, Bewick's much-loved work was six years in the making and published "to even greater acclaim than the Quadrupeds of 1790. Apart from the excellence of the principal figures, the numerous tailpiece vignettes that enlivened every spare space in the book came in for special notice... Apart from lovingly observed landscape settings, the narrative content of many of Bewick's tailpieces is often ironic and displays a mordant view of the world and human folly... Any comparison of Bewick's work with that of his predecessors makes clear how original it appeared at the time. Not only was there truth in outline and animated posture, but the habitat was beautifully realized" (ODNB).

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3 volumes, octavo (210 x 130 mm). Finely bound by Riviere & Son in uniform green morocco, raised bands, spines lettered and decorated in gilt, triple gilt fillets to boards, turn-ins richly gilt, all edges gilt.


Vignette title pages, wood-engraved illustrations in the text by Thomas Bewick throughout.


Discreet colour restorations to rubbed extremities, spines a little sunned, the bindings otherwise sharp, occasional browned gathering, else internally fresh and clean; a superb set.


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