We are very pleased to offer these original copper plate engravings by Eleazar Albin the 1st English edition of The Natural History of Birds. This is the rarest and most highly prized of Albin’s works as it was hand coloured entirely by Albin and his daughter, Elizabeth. There were only 89 sets published, and we have linked the list of original subscribers below. It was a monumental undertaking seen only a few times in the history of natural history works and compares with the illustration of 60 editions of The Birds of Great Britain, with their Eggs by William Lewin and his sons and the colouring of 100 copies of Birds of America by Rex Brasher.
The Title Page of the publication reads, "Published by the Author Eleazar Albin, and carefully colour'd by his Daughter and Self, from the Originals, drawn from the live Birds."
The Names of the Subscribers can be viewed by clicking here.
Albin was a German professional painter who settled in England in 1707, where he married and raised a family, changing his name from Weiss to Albin. He illustrated works on insects and spiders, earning his living by making watercolors of the collections of wealthy patrons, including Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection founded the British Museum. His work on birds was done late in his life & was the first large English work on ornithology, hand-colored by Albin and his daughter Elizabeth & published initially in London from 1731-1738.
In Albin's notes to the reader he states "As for the paintings, they are all done from the life, with all the Exactness I could either with my own hand, or my daughters, whom I have taught to draw and paint after the life." As was the custom with many other works of the day, it was sold by subscription. Ref: Dictionary of Bird Artist, p132.
Each print measures approximately 9 inches by 11 1/4 inches with wonderful copperplate style descriptions on the bottom of the page. The paper is creamy, strong and chain-lined, with some watermarks. We have made some allowances for condition as it is from such a historical early set hand coloured by Eleazer and Elizabeth Albin. There is little foxing, but some toning of the paper and some slight offset. Unusual for Albin, the margins are intact except in a few cases and the plate marks present and strong. There is an accompanying copy of the title page, and either the original or facsimile descriptive text as it was printed back to back.
The hand coloring is exactly as the master wished, since he did it himself, some 250 years old, and it could not be more exceptional to know that each print has been touched by his hand, or his daughters’. Popular from the initial publication, attracting almost 100 subscribers, it is no less beloved today. There is an endearing & engaging quality to these illustrations that resemble the folk art of later times and we are delighted to offer this rare treasure to our buyers.