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Natural History Art, Birds, Selby, Common Coot, British Ornithology, Antique Print, London, 1824 to 1834


Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) (artist & editor)
Admiral Robert Mitford (after)
Prideaux John Selby, Admiral Robert Mitford and W. H. Lizars (engravers)
Common Coot, Plate XXXII
from Illustrations of British Ornithology
Edinburgh: William Lizars, 1824-1834
Hand-colored etching
Paper watermarked: J. Whatman, 1828
20 x 25 inches, overall
16 x 22 inches, plate mark

Natural history study of a Common Coot in its natural habitat about to eat a dragonfly that is perched on a reedy flowering plant. The habitat of the Common Coot is in Europe, Southern Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and North Africa.  It is a dark gray bird having a white forehead and red eyes.  They often inhabit stagnant water and are mostly herbivorous, though they eat insects and other animals, too.

Product Description Continues Below


Selby is considered one of the best ever bird artists, together with John James Audubon, his contemporary, and John Gould.  Like these artists, he showed 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.

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.  Outer margins with minor short tears and chips, professional reinforced verso, and can be matted out.


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

ter Huume, Suzanne. “Common Coot.” The Animal Files. (4 November 2004).