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Bird, Art, William Hayes, Natural History of British Birds, Jay, Antique Print, London, 1770s


William Hayes (1735-1802) et al. (after)
Gabriel Smith (1724-1783) (etcher)
The Jay
from A Natural History of British Birds, &c. with their Portraits, accurately drawn, and beautifully coloured from nature
Printed for S. Hooper, London: [1770-] 1775
Hand-colored etching
17.5 x 12.5, plate mark
21 x 14 inches, overall

Natural history etching of a jay from a rare collection of natural history plates of British birds by William Hayes. The jay is posed as if captured mid movement. The rendering is distinctly 18th-century in conception and style, resembling other prints and watercolors of the period that isolate the birds against the page, generally perched on a branch with a small patch of ground below. The proportions are accurate, though the details are somewhat simplified and stylized, and the color in Hayes’s works tends to be high key. The original set had 40 folio size plates.

Product Description Continues Below



William Hayes was a British illustrator best known for A Natural History of British Birds (1775) and Rare and Curious Birds Accurately Drawn and Colored from Their Specimens in the Menagerie at Osterly Park (1794-99). A self-taught artist, Hayes worked from live specimens he kept in captivity, as well as birds from the collection of one of his patrons, the Duchess of Portland. Hayes depicted birds at life size whenever possible, as John James Audubon (1785-1851) would later do. He engaged no fewer than seven of his children in printing, coloring and assembling volumes, and at least some of his bird illustrations were drawn by other members of his large family. As orders for copies of his books were received, available prints were assembled in what has been described as “a production line of unrivalled chaos,” so that the actual contents received by a given subscriber varied. In the mid-1780s, Hayes moved to Southall, near Osterley Park and the estate’s owners, Robert and Sarah Child, who collected exotic birds, became his patrons. He also painted portraits of birds belonging to John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich.

Gabriel Smith was a British etcher and engraver based in London his entire life. He began his studies there. He continued in Paris, where he became proficient at the technique of producing etchings and engravings en manière de crayon, that is, achieving the appearance of pencil drawings in a print. A few decades later, with the invention of lithography, that look was relatively easy to achieve in that medium, but in Smith’s era, his ability to accurately convey drawings was highly valued. He worked in collaboration with William Ryland and William Hayes, on subjects ranging from natural history to religious and genre scenes.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, handling, wear.


Anker, Jean. Bird Books and Bird Art. 1938. New York: Martino, 1990. 198.

Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. (Hayes) Vol. 7, p. 811.

Hayes, William. A Natural History of British Birds, &c. with their Portraits, accurately drawn, and beautifully coloured from nature. London: [1770-]1775. Online at, see Jay on p. 35: (15 May 2015).

Mullens, W.H. & Swann, H. Kirke. A Bibliography of British Ornithology from the Earliest Times to the End of 1912, Including Bibliographic Accounts of the Principal Writers and Bibliographies of Their Published Works. 1917. reprint ed. Hitchin: Wheldon & Wesley, 1986. p.287.

Nissen, Claus. Die Illustrierten Vogelbucher: ihre Geschichte und Bibliographie. Stuttgart: 1976. 421.

Sitwell, Sacheverell. Fine Bird Books, 1700-1900. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990. p.105.

Zimmer, John Todd. Catalogue of the Edward E. Ayer Ornithological Library. Zoological Series, Publ. 239-240, Vol. 16. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1926. pp.293-294.

Additional information


18th C. Birds