The accompanying text describes flamingos: “These remarkable birds are found in the warmer parts of the world. They are usually observed on the sea shore or in the salt-marshes in flocks of many individuals, one of which generally acts as sentinel, while the others are feeding or resting. At the slightest danger it gives warning by a loud trumpet-like noise, and then starts off and takes the lead in their flight. When flying, they form two lines springing from one birds which gives the appearance of a triangle, but they alight in a straight line, and generally remain so even while seeking their food. They are capable of running quickly, but, when walking, assist themselves by placing their upper mandible on the ground. Shell-fish, the spawn of fish, and marine insects form their food, which they secure by means of the long bill, turning it towards themselves, and thus it is place upside down to the advantage of its peculiar form. The nest is placed on a hillock, which the female forms of mud to the height of a foot and a half, having the top truncated and concave, whereon are deposited two or three eggs; these are hatched by the bird couching over them.”
George Gray made major contributions to the study of ornithology over the course of a 41-year career at the British Museum, which he joined as an assistant in 1831, eventually becoming curator of its ornithological collections. He was also a corresponding member of numerous natural history and science academies and societies as well as being the author of several entomological publications and contributed to the English edition of Cuvier’s Règne Animal and Agassiz’s Nomenclator Zoologicus. His most important work was Genera of Birds, a three-volume set which “brought the number of recorded species of birds up to date and was a starting point for much subsequent progress in ornithology” (DNB). At this point his list of species numbered nearly 8,000 and was the most comprehensive published up to that time. He added to this work over time, until his Hand-list of the Genera and Species of Birds enumerated over 11,000 species, as well as recording 40,000 specific names as given by various authors.
David William Mitchell, B.A. F.L.S., both drew and lithographed most of the plates for Genera of Birds. He was the Secretary to the Zoological Society (London) as well as Honorary Member of the Royal Zoological Society of Amsterdam and several learned societies at the time of publication. Following his appointment to the office of Secretary to the Zoological Society, he engaged the German painter, Joseph Wolf as his assistant, a young man he considered to “be the best available talent in Europe”.
Joseph Wolf had accepted an invitation to come to England from Antwerp in 1848, and given the assignment to help David Mitchell to complete the drawings for Genera of Birds and transfer them onto lithograph stones. He lithographed 11 of the colored plates and 59 of the uncolored detail plates of heads, beaks, claws, etc. Although originally hired as an assistant, his plates soon easily outstripped those of Mitchell and his works figure more prominently in the latter part of the work. Wolf’s contribution to the uncolored detail plates included 345 heads alone, which combined scientific precision with artistic quality.
These lithographs were published by the firm of Charles Joseph Hullmandell (1789-1850), an English draftsman, lithographer and printer. He worked mainly in London, although he had trained in Paris as a painter and travelled extensively in Europe making topographical drawings. In 1817, on a visit to Munich, he was introduced to lithography by the pioneering lithographer Alois Senefelder. The following year he produced Twenty-four Views of Italy, a set of images he had drawn and lithographed. Dissatisfied with the way his work had been printed, Hullmandel set up his own lithographic press. The quality of work he published by himself and other artists such as Giovanni Belzoni helped popularize the topographical lithograph among British artists.
Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans was a major mid-19th-century publisher in London, producing illustrated and scientific books as well as works of literature.
Condition: Generally very good, the original colors bright and fresh. Some minor toning, soft creases.
References: Ayer/Zimmer catalogue, pp.268-269. DNB. Fine Bird Books, 1990, p103. HBS 38990.
Jackson, Lithography, p.66. Nissen IVB 388; Nissen,SVB, p.211. McGill/Wood, p.367. Zimmer p. 668.
“Charles Joseph Hullmandel.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/03/0393/T039379.asp (28 March 2002).
Ripley, S. Dillon and Scribner, Lynette. Ornithological Books in the Yale University Library. Martino Publishing: 1993. p. 116. 35562.