Red Breasted Merganser PL 58 from a rare black and white edition of Prideaux John Selby’s two volume set of 222 engravings “Illustrations of British Ornithology”. These original hand colored signed in the plate engravings are printed on elephant folio paper and watermarked J. Whatman , 1924. Selby, an ornithologist and talented artist drew all the images except for 26 of the plates which were drawn by his brother -in-law, Admiral Mitford, of which this is one. Like his contemporary J.J. Audubon, Selby collected most of his specimens and engraved many of his large folio plates himself. Another interesting fact is that Selby was the only artist in the early 1900’s other than Audubon to depict every bird in its actual size. “Illustrations of British Ornithology” was the first life-sized illustrations of British birds. This engraving has been professionally hand-colored and and is in good condition with some wear on the outside borders and is signed in the plate by A. Mitford.
Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) ornithologist, botanist and natural history artist was born in Northumberland, England to a prominent family. He wrote Illustrations of Ornithology and A History of British Forest-trees (1842). Many of the illustrations in his works were drawn from specimens in his collection. In addition to the above works he contributed to Jardine’s Naturalist’s Library the volumes on the pigeons (1835) and the parrots (1836), the latter illustrated by Edward Lear. He was also one of the editors of the Magazine of Zoology and Botany.