Wilson, Alexander and Charles Lucien Bonaparte.
American Ornithology; or the Natural History of the Birds of the United States. Volume IV.
Seller ID: 2273
Edinburgh: Constable, 1831. First edition (x, 362, append., adverts), edited by Robert Jameson. Duodecimo (16 cm) in blue-green cloth, printed titles to spine; title page illustration Wild Turkey. The first three volumes of the complete set of four are ‘devoted to a reprint of Wilson’s work (1808-14), re-arranged and with occasional editorial notes by Jameson.. A number of Ord’s notes and comments are printed with due credit. Vol. IV (pp. 1- 217) contains a reprint of the first three volumes of Bonaparte’s American Ornithology, 1825- 33. There is a catalogue of the species described and figured by Audubon in his Ornithological Biography, 1831- 39, and Birds of America, 1827- 38. The remainder of the volume consists of extracts..of Richardson and Swainson’s Fauna Boreali- Americana or Northern Zoology, 1832’ [then in press] (Zimmer). Alexander Wilson (1766- 1813) apprenticed as a weaver at age ten and later worked as a journeyman and ‘relied on this trade whenever he could not obtain better work.’ Wilson left Britain (where his prospects were limited) for the United States in 1794, locating near Philadelphia, where he became acquainted with the American naturalist William Bartram whose niece taught Wilson to draw birds and where he could observe the immense migratory flocks of water-fowl and other birds which traveled the Atlantic fly-way in Spring and Fall. In 1804, the year he became an American citizen, Wilson traveled to Niagara Falls and published a popular poem The Foresters celebrating that epic site. Wilson’s principal contribution to ornithology was his American Ornithology (1808- 14) which was planned as ten volumes with engravings by Lawson, nine of which he completed before his death in 1813. Collecting specimens and gathering subscriptions as he went, Wilson traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans in his boat ‘Ornithologist’. In Louisville, quite by chance, he stopped in at a store run by a French immigrant named Audubon who, while unable to afford a subscription to Wilson’s project, nevertheless seemed favourably impressed by the enterprise and perhaps formed or was confirmed in a similar ambition of his own. ‘Despite having no formal education, no one had ever published so many studies on wild birds as he did. He made substantial contributions to American ornithology and to the aesthetic appreciation of birds’ (Egerton, ODNB). In a note Zimmer quotes Coues, ‘Science would lose little, but, on the contrary, would gain much, if every scrap of pre-Wilsonian writing about United States birds could be annihilated.’ Title label a bit faded and chipped; otherwise a Near Fine copy.
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