Selby Vol 2, Pl. 58, Red Breasted Merganser
Original Antique Print
20 5/8" x 25 1/2" (approximate)
Illustrations of British Ornithology, Vol. 2 Water Birds
Prideaux John Selby’s large-scale engravings were the first work of British ornithology to depict many birds in the size of life. Comprising two volumes with a total of 222 engravings, Illustrations of British Ornithology was published in Edinburgh in 19 parts from 1821 to 1834. Created during the same period that John James Audubon was publishing The Birds of America, both Audubon and Selby employed the Scottish engraver W. H. Lizars. A highly skilled engraver himself, Prideaux John Selby employed W. H. Lizars’ services only for printing and coloring his own exquisite copper plates. Copies vary depending on the folio. Many of the engravings were colored by Daniel McNee. In some folios, all 222 engravings were hand-colored, in other only 218 of the engravings were.
Twenty-six of the plates were drawn by Prideaux John Selby’s brother-in-law, Admiral Mitford, and the rest were executed by Selby, who obtained most of the specimens for the drawings himself. Prideaux John Selby engravings are printed on elephant folio size Whatman paper that is watermarked with the date the paper was made. John James Audubon also used Whatman paper for the Havell edition of The Birds of America.
The artist-naturalist Prideaux John Selby (1788—1867) was born in Northumberland, England to a prominent family. As a child, he exhibited a strong interest in ornithology, and by the time he was 12 or 13 years old he had composed his first illustrated notes on common British birds. Prideaux John Selby became a member of the Wernerian Natural History Society in Edinburgh at an early age. His interests in natural history extended into forestry and entomology, but his devotion to the subject of ornithology was primary.
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