BRASHER, Rex (1869-1960). Birds and Trees of North America. Chickadee Valley, Kent, Connecticut: Rex Brasher and Associates, 1932.
12 volumes. Oblong folio (12 x 17 5/8 inches). 860 (of 867) exceptionally fine photogravure plates after Brasher, coloured by pochoir andairbrush (bound without plates 6, 153, 228, 356 a and b, 375b, and 376). Original half brown suede, pictorial masonite boards, gilt; preserved in near contemporary file boxes.
First edition, limited issue, one of "500" (but probably 100) copies, most volumes unnumbered and unsigned, except, volume V, which is signed by Brasher, volume X which is signed by Brasher and numbered 23, volume XI which is numbered 23.
"THE MOST AMBITIOUS PUBLICATION OF COLORED PLATES OF BIRDS EXECUTED IN THIS CENTURY" (Yale/Ripley).
Brasher's magnum opus, first issued as here in a limited edition, between 1929 and 1932. Using the American Ornithologists Union Checklist of North American Birds as a guide Brasher depicted 1200 species or subspieces of birds: almost twice as many as Louis Aggasiz Fuertes or John James Audubon. Although the printed limitation calls for 500 copies, the publication of Brasher's Birds and Trees coincided with the onset of the Great Depression, and far fewer copies were actually subscribed for and printed. In the preface to the final volume, Brasher acknowledges 14 patrons and 52 subscribers.
Born in New York in 1869, "Brasher began painting seriously in his teens. Inspired by his father at an even earlier age, Brasher had set the goal of painting all the species and sub-species identified in the American Ornithologists’ Union’s Check-list of North American Birds. Brasher strove for perfection, attempting to make his paintings as lifelike as possible by portraying birds in their natural habitats, illustrating gender differences, and recording their everyday activities. Visiting every state, Brasher captured birds that are now extinct, including the heath hen, passenger pigeon, and Eskimo curlew. He often financed these trips by working at odd jobs, including stints on fishing boats (this allowed him to work while also studying seabirds). He also funded his work through more unusual means, such as betting on the horses. Often unsatisfied with his results, Brasher twice destroyed all his paintings, an estimated 700 canvases.
"In 1911, after having received a $700 commission for illustrating a book, Brasher purchased a 150-acre farm in Kent, Connecticut, calling it Chickadee Valley. By 1924 Brasher had completed his series of paintings and attempted to have his work published, but the cost of printing all the plates in color was prohibitive. The persistent Brasher came up with a less costly solution. He hired the Meriden Gravure Company to produce black-and-white reproductions and then hand-colored the prints himself using an airbrush and stencil technique that he’d developed. This labor intensive process took four years to complete. The final book, Birds & Trees of North America, was produced in a limited edition of 100 sets of 12 volumes" (Connecticut History.org). Nissen IVB 134; Wood, p.254; Yale/Ripley 39