This stunning, originally hand-colored folio lithograph is from Daniel Giraud Elliots work A Monograph of the Phasianidae or Family of the Pheasants. The work was published in New York by Elliot between 1870 and 1872. The fine lithographed plates are after J. Wolf and J. Smit by J. G. Keulemans, and colored by J. D. White at the time of publication.
Elliot’s work presented here is described by Sitwell as “the equal in every way to any work by Gould.” R. M. Mengel noted that “of the great nineteenth-century ornithological monographs, none save Audubon’s is so sumptuous’ (“Beauty and the Beast: Natural History and Art”, The Living Bird, 1979-1980). Elliot regarded the pheasants as the most important to the human race “containing within it the species that afford food for thousands of mankind, and also those which are the original source of all the domestic poultry met with throughout the civilized world.”
Elliots lithographs are some of the most valuable American bird plates. Elliot was a prominent American zoologist. He was one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the American Ornithologists Union. Elliot was also curator of zoology at Chicagos Field Museum.
Elliot dedicated the work to Wolf, “whose unrivalled talent has graced this work with its chief attraction, and whose marvellous power of delineating animal life renders him unequalled in our time” (Dedication). The work pushed Wolf’s notoriety to “the same rank as Audubon and Edward Lear as a bird-painter.” (Fine Bird Books)
Elliot also stated his intentions for the work in the preface: “Since the time of Wilson and Audubon, no work has been published upon American Ornithology, containing life-size reproductions of the various species that have been discovered since the labors of those great men were finished It was, therefore, with the desire to contribute, as might be in my power, towards the elucidation of the comparatively little known species of the Birds of North America, their habits and economy, as well as to render their forms familiar so far as life-size representations of them might serve to do, that I undertook the present publication.”
It is believed that the lithographs stones for this work were destroyed after 150 copies were taken, making it a rare and desirable piece for any collection. (see Sothebys London, 5 June 2001)