A natural history of British birds.

A natural history of British birds. William Hayes.
A natural history of British birds.
A natural history of British birds.
A natural history of British birds.

London: Author, [1771-1779]. Folio, 40 proof plates handcoloured by Hayes and his family, without a title page. All but seven signed, captioned and dated. The Green Woodpecker has the signature of William Hayes and Gabriel Smith. Contemporary half calf and marbled boards, a few spots but otherwise the plates in fine crisp condition, very scarce.

William Hayes (1735-1802) was an early English bird artist who was a postmaster for much of his life. He had a large family, was often in financial difficulties, and was helped with the colouring of his plates by his daughters. He produced a handsome folio work titled Natural History of British birds, with their portraits, accurately drawn and beautifully coloured from Nature 1771-1775. He was not constrained by the title of his work and produced copies with foreign birds such as pheasants and parrots. Copies were produced to order which explains the erratic nature of this publication; both in terms of the paper quality, number of plates and subject matter.

"Almost every copy of a William Hayes book is different- plates colourists, artist, so if you list the plates in each copy/vol. there is no guarantee you will find another with plates done by the same member of the Hayes family - certainly not coloured by one only. But, I think an early copy of the Natural History of British Birds will have William Hayes and Gabriel Smith's work only - perhaps! I once saw a 1st edition of this title at Sotheby's. They had not spotted the Gabriel Smith signatures, or did not mention it. Some plates were very lightly (under-etched) etched, others so heavily etched (left in the bath too long) that it had been difficult to float the watercolours over the lines. This copy must have been a very early one, while Hayes was still learning to etch, guided by Gabriel Smith who showed him how to do it on 8 plates that he signed. Gabriel Smith was convicted of forgery and hanged in 1783 (see my Dictionary of Bird artists of the World). In the New Oxford National Dictionary, the author of the Hayes entry did not know about my Bird etchings and his article is faulty.This is not very helpful, I know, but if you were not a learned and experienced gentleman I would hint to you not to tangle collating William Hayes if you wish to remain calm and collected." (Christine Jackson pers. com 18 July 2017).

Anker 198; Fine Bird Books p. 80 (two stars); Nissen IVB 421; Nissen SVB 225; Wood p. 381; Zimmer 293.

Price: $20,000.00 AU

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