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Bird, Art, British, Selby, Cormorants, Antique Print Pair, London, c. 1821-34 (Sold)

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Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) (artist and etcher)
Robert Osbaldeston Mitford (1781-1870) (etcher)
Common Cormorant, Summer Plumage, Plate LXXXIV
Crested Cormorant, Plate LXXXVI

from Illustrations of British Ornithology
William Lizars, Edinburgh and London, et al.: c. 1821-1834
Hand-colored etchings
Paper watermarked: J. Whatman, 1828
24.5 to 25.5 x 20 inches, each
21.75 x 15.75 inches, plate mark

Pair of bird prints from Prideaux John Selby’s Illustrations of British Ornithology, one of the greatest ever color-plate ornithology works. These prints are of the Common and Crested Cormorants, each perched on a small rock. The Common Cormorant may be found in mating season near the Bay of Fundy and along the coast of Labrador. At other times of the year, it has been seen as far south as Maryland, as well as up along the entire east coast up to Nova Scotia. The Crested Cormorant lives in similar environments. The two birds are related closely to the Florida Cormorant.

Product description continues below.


Prideaux John Selby is considered one of the best ever bird artists, together with John James Audubon, his contemporary, and John Gould. Like these artists, he drew the birds with scientific accuracy in natural settings, while also composing the images with great decorative appeal. Like Audubon, he produced images life sized. Selby distinguished himself, however, by engraving many of the plates for his large folio set himself. Selby was taught to etch by his his brother-in-law Admiral Robert Mitford, who in turn assisted Selby in etching the bird prints for Selby’s Illustrations of British Ornithology.

These distinguishing features of Selby’s works were emphasized by scholar Christine E. Jackson:

The cool, classical quality of Selby’s plates belongs to an age of elegance and could never have been achieved by the Victorian John Gould. Selby’s bird figures were the most accurate delineation of British birds to that date, and the liveliest. After so many books with small, stiff bird portraits, this new atlas with life-sized figures and more relaxed drawing was a great achievement in the long history of bird illustration.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning and wear. Some light stray soiling or markings, mostly marginal and can be matted out, else not obtrusive.


Buonanno, Richard R. “The Common Cormorant.” National Audubon Soceity. 1995. (26 July 2004).

Buonanno, Richard R. “The Double-Crested Cormorant.” National Audubon Soceity. 1995. (26 July 2004).

Jackson, Christine Elisabeth. Bird Etchings: The Illustrators and Their Books, 1655-1855,Ithaca: CornellUniversity Press, 1985.

Additional information


19th Century