ORD, George (4 Mar. 1781-24 Jan. 1866). Sketch of the Life of Alexander Wilson, author of the American Ornithology. Philadelphia: Published by Harrison Hall, 1828.
8vo., (9 6/8 x 6 inches). (Some occasional spotting). Original muslin backed drab paper boards, printed paper label on the spine, uncut (lower cover nearly detached, covers spotted, early newspaper clippings laid down on the front endpapers).
Provenance: PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed on the title-page "To Col. C.C. Biddle with the respects of the Author".
FIRST EDITION AND PRESENTATION COPY.
As a young man Ord became a protege of Alexander Wilson, creator of the celebrated "American Ornithology; or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States". "After Wilson's death in 1813, Ord completed the eighth volume of the Ornithology. In 1814 he published the ninth and final volume from Wilson's notes and added a biography of his friend, which he later expanded into the book Sketch of the Life of Alexander Wilson (1828; repr. 1871)...Despite his many personal accomplishments, Ord is best remembered for his animosity toward Wilson's most famous ornithological rival, John James Audubon. As Wilson's close friend, biographer, and executor, Ord may have felt threatened by Audubon's considerable talent when he burst onto the ornithological scene a decade after Wilson's death. After their first meeting at the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1824, Ord aggressively campaigned against Audubon, using his significant influence to try to prevent Audubon from realizing success in scientific circles in the United States and abroad. Famed for his sharp tongue in defaming others, Ord made many assertions about Audubon's morals, intelligence, and integrity that today would almost certainly be considered libelous. In letters to friends and associates, he called the younger naturalist a "charlatan," an "impudent pretender," and a "contemptible imposter." To Charles Lucien Bonaparte, the influential ornithologist and nephew of Napoleon, Ord declared Audubon's Ornithological Biography "the biggest hodgepodge of stupidity and lies that I have ever seen." Though his campaign was unsuccessful in the end, it caused Audubon great distress and slowed his acceptance by some members of the scientific community" (Robert McCracken Peck for DNB).
In 1859 Ord contributed chapters on eminent Philadelphians Clement Cornell Biddle, and his father Colonel Clement Biddle in "Eminent Philadelphians now Deceased. Collected from Original and Authentic Sources", 1859. The younger Biddle, to whom this example of Ord's biography of Wilson was presented, was born in, 1784, went to sea in 1800, then studied to became a lawyer before "the attack upon the Chesapeake frigate occurring about this time, the whole nation was aroused to an assertion of its rights against the pretensions of Great Britain; and, having a predilection for a military life, he accepted a commission, as Captain of dragoons, from President Jefferson, and was stationed with his regiment at New Orleans. The excitement was. however, temporarily lulled, and Mr. Biddle resigned his commission. But when war was declared against Great Britain, in 1812, he originated, in his native city, the company of volunteers known as the State Fencibles, of which company he was elected Captain, in July, 1812. Although just married, and in circumstances by no means opulent, he gave his whole time and abilities, during the continuance of the war, to the service of his country. On the organization of the First Regiment of Volunteer Light Infantry, of the Pennsylvania line, he was elected Colonel. In the autumn of 1814 his regiment was stationed at Camp Dupont, in the State of Delaware; but, owing to the retreat of the enemy from Baltimore, it was never actively engaged.
Upon the restoration of peace, Mr. Biddle returned to Philadelphia, and was appointed by the Governor a Notary Public, which office he exercised for several years...Upon the assembling of the Free Trade Convention, in Philadelphia, in September, 1831, Mr. Biddle took an active part in their deliberations; and, though not prominent as a debater, for which his previous training had not qualified him, he was recognized as one of the best-informed members of that enlightened body...In the year 1821, Mr. Biddle was elected a member of the Philosophical Society; which, at an early day, had availed itself of the services of his father, and of his uncle, Owen Biddle, the latter of whom was appointed, in 1769, in conjunction with Joel Bailey, to observe, near Cape Henlopen, the transit of Venus over the sun's disk. He was also connected with some of the principal literary and benevolent associations of Philadelphia" (pages 84-88). Catalogued by Kate Hunter