2 volumes. Folio (19 6/8 x 13 inches). Half-titles and sectional titles, list of subscribers. 190 fine etched plates printed in colour by Langlois, finished by hand, and HEIGHTENED IN GOLD, including one double-page and 26 bis of the "Grimperaux", all with CAPTIONS PRINTED IN GOLD (lightly spotted throughout). Contemporary French calf, gilt (rebacked preserving the original spines, lower cover of volume II extensively restored).
Provenance: with the engraved armorial bookplates of Queen Maria Christina of Spain (1858 – 1929), and the Princes of Spain on each front paste-down; with the ink library stamps of the three surviving sons of Charles IV of Spain: Fernando (later) VII, Carlos (later the pretender), and Antonio, on the verso of the title-page; their sale June 20th, 2000, lot 128
First edition, limited issue, one of 200 folio sets with the plate captions printed in gold of a total edition of 313, which included 200 quarto sets, 12 folio sets with the plate captions and the text printed in gold, and one set printed in gold on vellum. The work was issued in 32 parts over 26 months and is divided into 10 sections. Illustrating the extraordinary beauty of the most spectacular species of hummingbirds, jacamars and birds of paradise.
Anker says of the magnificent plates, which are heightened with gold, that the 'colours of the birds and their handsome appearance have evidently been the cause of their selection for inclusion in the book. The plates with the bird portraits are in beautiful colours; in this respect they are among the best colour prints found in ornithology'.
The plates were etched by Audebert from his own designs and those of 'les plus belles peintres de Paris et de Londres'; Louis Bouquet assisted with the colouring and Langlois with the printing in oil-colours, and the whole process used in the printing of the plates was invented by Audebert. All the colours were printed from a single plate, and oil paint was substituted for the more common gouache. Originally a miniature painter, Audubert became interested in natural history after meeting Gigot-d'Orex in 1789, a wealthy collector of specimens, who employed him to paint some of them. Tragically Audebert died at the young age of 41, and this is the last book he completed before his death. The text is largely by Vieillot who continued the work using Audebert's notes after the latter's death in 1800.
From the distinguished library of Maria Cristina, Queen of Spain as the second wife of King Alfonso XII. Her son, Alfonso XIII was born after his father's death, and so Maria Cristina was regent until he reached his majority in 1902. During her regency Spain lost its Caribbean and Pacific colonies during the Spanish–American War. Subsequently the Royal Library of Spain "LL AA RR" (Leurs Altesses Royales), Les Princes d'Espagne. Anker 14; Fine Bird Books p.73; Nissen IVB 47; Ronsil 103; Wood pp. 206-207; Zimmer pp. 17-18.