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Bird, Art, British, Selby, Ducks, Golden Eye, Antique Print, London, c. 1854


Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) (artist and etcher)
Robert Osbaldeston Mitford (1781-1870) (etcher)
Golden Eye Duck, Plate LXII
from Illustrations of British Ornithology
William Lizars, Edinburgh and London, et al.: c. 1821-1834 (later issue c. 1854)
Hand-colored etching
Paper watermarked: J. Whatman, 1854
15.75 x 21.75 inches, plate mark
22 x 26.5 inches, overall
24 x 30 inches, French mat

Bird print from Prideaux John Selby’s Illustrations of British Ornithology, one of the greatest ever color-plate ornithology works. The print shows a pair of common goldeneyes [Bucephala clangula], a type of diving duck. The male in the foreground is perched on a rock, the female in the water behind him, drawn so you can see a foot underwater. Both are drawn in profile facing in opposite directions, a compositional device that allows the artist to show the different plumage patterns distinguishing each gender. The title and a key labeled “1. Male, 2. Female” appear in the water to the right of the male. There are two subspecies of common goldeneyes; presumably this is the Eurasian one, as opposed to the North American variety that ranges mainly across Canada.

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: Print and hand-made French mat generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling.


“Common goldeneye.” Wikipedia. 4 March 2022. (4 May 2022).

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

Additional information


19th Century