London: Groombridge and Sons, 1863; 1863; 1864; 1863. Four volumes. 4to. xv, [i], 203; iv, 203; iv, 247; iv, 250,  pp., including the errata leaf at the end. FIRST EDITION. With 238 beautiful hand-colored wood-engravings. Original blind-stamped cloth, covers with illustration and title in gilt, rebacked, new endpapers; all tissue guards present, minor foxing, overall an excellent uncut and partially unopened set with a gift inscription dated May 26, 1943 on fly-leaf of Volume 1 and a second gift inscription dated April 19, 194? (from Celine McDade to Ben Coleman) on the fly-leaf of Volume 3. Item #16304
First edition, extensively illustrated with 238 beautiful hand-colored wood-engravings of continental European birds and eggs. “This admirable descriptive treatise . . . furnishes the synonymy, generic characters, distribution, and habits of those birds of Europe seen outside the British Isles” (Wood). Originally issued in 59 parts, this work was bound up with title pages varying in dates of imprint, thereby causing “considerable confusion in the dates of publication as recorded for this work” (Zimmer). This set has an early range of dates on its title pages (Volumes 1, 2 and 4 printed in 1863, Volume 3 in 1864), confirming that it is a first edition; the first edition was published continually from 1859 to 1867, and the second edition was not issued until 1875.
The plates were executed by Benjamin Fawcett, whose early chromoxylographs (color-printed wood-engravings) are actually finished by hand, some almost entirely hand-colored (though the plates of eggs are clearly color-printed, but also finished by hand). Fawcett’s later works in the 1870s and 80s are almost entirely color-printed, so Bree’s Birds represents one of his earlier experimentations with color printing.
Anker, 59; Nissen, 136; Sitwell, p. 81; Casey Wood, p. 254; Zimmer, 87-88.