This originally hand-colored engraving is from Saverio Manetti’s work Storia naturale degli Uccelli or A Natural History of Birds. The prints were drawn and etched by Violante Vanni and Lorenzo Lorenzi with the text penned by Saverio Manetti. The work was published in Florence, Italy between 1767 and 1776 by F. Mouck, C. Cambiagi, and Giuseppe Vanni.
Storia naturale degli Uccelli was ‘larger, better engraved and more vividly coloured than any previous book on birds’, notable for its lively posturing of the specimens which seem to reflect ‘the habits and mannerisms of contemporary Italian society’ (Dance). It is “one of the half-dozen or so Great Bird Books in the collector’s sense” (Fine Bird Books). Dance p.70; Nissen IVB 588; Wood p.450; Fine Bird Books p.10; Zimmer I, 241.
Each bird engraving shows remarkable personality and detail, many of the birds often taking on an almost human personality type. Manetti drew his work predominantly from real specimens. The work was one of the largest ornithology undertakings to that point in time.
This beautiful plate comes from Storia naturale degli uccelli, of which Peter Dance writes “The production of its five massive folio volumes must have been one of the most remarkable publishing ventures ever undertaken in Florence. Begun in 1767, and [based on birds taken from the collection of Giovanni Gerini], it was completed ten years later. It was larger, better engraved and more vividly coloured than any previous work on birds, but these are not its only claim to fame. The attitudes of the birds themselves give this book its unique character. Strutting, parading, posturing, and occasionally flying….are birds whose real-life counterparts would surely disown them, and not without reason, for Manetti seems in these pictures to be depicting the human comedy, the habits and mannerisms of contemporary Italian society. His book may still be rated among the very greatest bird books, if only for its magnificent comicality” (S. Peter Dance, The Art of Natural History: Animal Illustrators and their Work. London: 1978)