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: Print and hand-made French mat generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling.
“Common goldeneye.” Wikipedia. 4 March 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_goldeneye (4 May 2022).
Jackson, Christine Elisabeth. Bird Etchings: The Illustrators and Their Books, 1655-1855. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.