Birds of North America by Spencer Baird, Published in Two Volumes by J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1860

Baird, Spencer Fullerton. The Birds of North America; the descriptions of species based chiefly on the collections in the museum of the Smithsonian Institution by Spencer Fullerton Baird with the co-operation of John Cassin and George Lawrence. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1860. First edition, two volumes, large quarto. 

This is an important American work of ornithology by one of the foremost American ornithologists of the 19th century, Spencer Baird, beautifully illustrated with 100 hand-colored plates.

The chief virtue of this spectacular contribution to the literature of American ornithology is that it completes the work first started by the octavo edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America (1840-1844) and later continued by John Cassin's Illustrations of the Birds of California, Texas [etc.] (1853-56). As Baird notes in the preface: "The first series [of Cassin's work], containing fifty species not given by Audubon, was completed in 1855, and has not been extended, having been superseded by the present work" (Preface, p.I, Atlas vol.).

The Atlas contains one hundred plates, of which one hundred and forty-eight species were considered new or "unfigured species" of North American birds. Fifty of these plates appear for the first time in this compilation, having been prepared expressly for the work. The remainder of the plates are from the ornithological illustrations of the Reports of the Pacific Railroad Survey [1858] or from the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey [1859] compiled under Major Emory.  All have, however, been carefully retouched and lettered for this 1860 edition, and quite a number were redrawn entirely from what Baird describes as "better and more characteristic specimens." 

Volume I is entirely composed of text, with tables of family, species, subspecies, and descriptive text for each bird cataloged. Volume II is composed of the 100 hand-colored lithographic plates. The lithographs were printed by Bowen & Co., a prominent lithographic publisher based in Philadelphia.


Presented in leather and cloth bindings with raised bands and embossed gilt. Internally, Volume II's plates are beautifully colored and still remain vibrant. No serious signs of foxing or discoloration. Volume I, comprised of text, is printed on very thin paper. Paper is intact, but several small tears have occurred over time. No significant loss, only small horizontal tears are present, most likely from past handling.

Both volumes are housed in a beautiful matching cloth slipcase with a copy of an image from the books on the cover.

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