This rare hand-colored lithograph comes from Henry Dresser’s monumental work, History of the Birds of Europe. This first edition was published in London by the author between 1871 and 1896. With detailed lithography and finely applied hand-coloring, this work is one of the finest works of the ornithological world. There were only an estimated 240 copies of this work printed and is one of the last publications to contain original hand coloring.
The plates found within Birds of Europe were completed by J.G. Keuelmans, J. Wolf, E. Neale, and A. Thorburn. Keuelmans is known far and wide for his talents as a natural history artist and composed the majority of the plates for the work. The images were drawn from Dresser’s own collection of 12,000 specimens.
History of the Birds of Europe is monumental in its field for its inclusive nature of all European birds. It encompassed the entire Western Palaearctic Region which Dresser noted comprised “the whole of continental Europe to the Ural range, Scandinavia, Spitzbergen, the British Isles, Iceland, the Faeroes, the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Isles, a comparatively narrow strip of North Africa, reaching to the border of the desert, Asia Minor (excluding the Jordan valley, which is essentially Ethiopia), and the Caucasus.”
Dresser was a leading figure in ornithological circles: he was elected a Member of the British Ornithologists Union in 1865 and served as its secretary from 1882 to 1888. He was a member and fellow of the Linnean and Zoological societies of London and an honorary fellow of the American Ornithologists Union.