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American Ornithology
by Alexander Wilson

Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, (1808-14) First edition
New York & Philadelphia: Collins & Co. & Harrison Hall, (1829) Second edition

Original engravings with hand-coloring.
Full, but narrow margins as issued for First edition. (Sheet size: approx. 10.5 x 13.5 inches
Second edition prints are on somewhat larger sheets, approx. 13.5 x 17 inches

Note on condition: The first edition of Wilson's American Ornithology was issued on American made paper that had many impurities in it. Thus it is almost impossible to find these prints without some discoloration and spotting on the paper. All prints listed below are in good condition for Wilson prints, with specific blemishes noted.

Alexander Wilson is known as “the father of American ornithology.” He earned this title both because of his American Ornithology—the first natural history just on American birds, which was first issued from 1808 to 1814 and so predated Audubon by about two decades—and because he was the first American citizen to become a full-time scientist in this field. Wilson, a Scottish immigrant, drew most of the birds for his ornithology himself; the engraving was mostly by Alexander Lawson and John G. Warnicke. Wilson worked with a small budget and so had to crowd as many specimens as he could onto one plate for the series. This led to the characteristic appearance of many of his prints, with several birds, juxtaposed in different combinations, filling the page right up to the plate mark. Although he fell far short of his goal of depicting every species of bird in North America, Wilson’s is a highly respected work in the history of science, and he was the leading competitor and chief precursor of Audubon. These are fine and important prints from the first American ornithology.

Alexander Wilson by Sully
ALEXANDER WILSON (1766-1813)
Portrait by Thomas Sully, 1813

Please click on a thumbnail for an enlarged view.

Rice bunting, carolina wren, etc


Plate 12
Drawn from nature by A. Wilson
Engraved by A. Lawson

1. Rice Bunting
2. Female
3. Red-eyed Flycatcher
4. Marsh Wren
5. Great Carolina Wren
6. Yellow-throat Warbler

CONDITION: GOOD/VERY GOOD
Narrow, but ample margins as issued; right and bottom outer margins somewhat soiled; apparantly original light watercolor smear just below tail of bird 2; penciled plate number at bottom

Sheet size: 10 3/8 x 13 3/8 inches
(First edition, Volume 2, 1810)

$525

flycatchers and eggs


Plate 13
Drawn from nature by A. Wilson
Engraved by A. Lawson

1. Tyrant Flycatcher
2. Great Crested Flycatcher
3. Small green Crested Flycatcher
4. Pe-we Flycatcher
5. Wood Pe-we Flycatcher

CONDITION: GOOD/VERY GOOD
Narrow, but ample margins as issued; margins somewhat age toned; moderate foxing, mainly in top portion

Sheet size: 10 1/4 x 13 3/8 inches
(First edition, Volume 2, 1810)

$675

Woodpecker, Pigeon Hawk, Warblers


Plate 15
Drawn from nature by A. Wilson
Engraved by G. Murray

1. Red-cocaded Woodpecker [sic]
2. Brown-headed Nuthatch
3. Pigeon Hawk
4. Blue-winged Yellow Warbler
5. Golden-winged Warbler
6. Blue-eyed Warbler
7. Black-breasted Blue Warbler

CONDITION: GOOD/VERY GOOD
a couple of faint fox marks, light browning to paper edges, otherwise very fine

Sheet size: 13 1/2 x 17
(Second edition, 1829)

$625

Cow Bunting, Maryland Yellow-throat, Blue grey Flycatcher, White-eyed Flycatcher


Plate 18
Drawn from nature by A. Wilson
Engraved by A. Lawson

1. Cow Bunting
2. Female
3. Young
4. Maryland Yellow-throat
5. Blue-grey Flycatcher
6. White-eyed Flycatcher

CONDITION: VERY GOOD
very light scattered foxing; short nicks and tears to extreme outer edges of paper

Sheet size: 11 3/4 x 16 1/8 inches
(Second edition, 1829)

$350

Chimney Swallow, Purple Martin, Connecticut Warbler


Plate 39
Drawn from nature by A. Wilson
Engraved by J. Warnicke

1. Chimney Swallow
2. Purple Martin
3. Female
4. Connecticut Warbler

CONDITION: VERY GOOD
very light scattered foxing; more prominent fox mark just above title; otherwise very nice condition

Sheet size: 11 3/8 x 14 3/8 inches
(Second edition, 1829)

$600