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BONAPARTE, Chalres Lucien Jules Laurent

American ornithology; or, the natural history of birds inhabiting the United States, not given by Wilson.   Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Carey 1825-33.

4 vols. Folio. vi, [ii], 105, [1]; vii, With 27 hand-coloured engraved plates, from drawings by Titian Ramsay Peale, A. Rider, and one partially by Audubon (pl. 10). Half-red morocco and marbled boards, decorated in gilt, expertly re-backed and re-cornered; some faint offsetting from plates (mainly to tissue-guards), some browning to Volumes II and III, scattered foxing to last three volumes (heavy at times in vol. III). A beautiful uncut copy with fresh, bright plates, from the library of Gardiner Greene and Esther Lathrop Hammond, with their engraved bookplate. $8,000.00

First edition, complete with all four volumes. Over forty-five North American birds are described, with engravings by Alexander Lawson after the original illustrations of Rider and Peale, the appointed naturalist to the Philadelphia Museum who collected for Bonaparte between 1824-25. Lawson, who also provided the plates for Wilson's work, engraved these plates "with the birds always before him," the colours dictated by Rider. The first two volumes are principally devoted to the description of land birds of western and extreme southern territories, drawing on expedition accounts into the Rockies, and introduces at least sixteen new species. The third volume contains both land and water birds, the descriptions based largely on Peale's gleanings in Florida. Of particular interest is the fine description of the indigenous Wild Turkey (meleagris oculata), complete with translations in 26 American Indian languages.

Bonaparte (1803-57), Prince of Canino and Musignano and nephew of Napoleon, is notable as both a revolutionary republican politician and a keen ornithologist. He moved from Europe after his marriage, and did his most important studies of avifauna while in Philadelphia, deciding to continue Wilson's monumental work only after he had discerned that nobody else would be willing to undertake such an enormous task. Wilson's Ornithology (9 volumes, 1808-14) was the first American work to use coloured plates to convey scientific information. Following a tumultuous political life in exile while back in Europe, Bonaparte returned to his zoological studies and in 1854 was appointed Director of the Jardin des Plantes of Paris.


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