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This truly rare and delightful bird engraving is from Joachim Johann Nepomuk Spalowsky’s Beytrag zur Naturgeschichte der Vögel or Contribution to the Natural History of Birds. The work was published by the author in Vienna between 1790 and 1792. Many of the engravings are enhanced with gold, silver, and copper and are printed on chain-linked, watermarked paper.
Joachim Johann Nepomuk Anton Spalowsky was a studied man of the Austrian empire. He was a medical doctor and a member of the Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences in Prague. He published on a number of subjects including ornithology, conchology, economics, and numismatics. Spalowsky originally intended for the work to span all natures of subjects, but appears to only have had a shorter run of publication.
The illustrations and specifically the hand-coloring were very important to Spalowsky. He referred to the plates as “illuminated”. The gold, silver, and copper hilites add a very unique look to his engravings. This technique perhaps inspired Gould’s later work with iridesence in his work Family of Hummingbirds.
This is an exceedingly rare work that comes up at auction scarcely, and almost never as the complete six-volume series. Perhaps 5 copies of the work are in public libraries across the world. A three-volume copy sold for £30,000 in 2012.
The work was dedicated to the following princes and wife: Alois I. Joseph von Liechtenstein and Caroline von Manderscheid-Blankenheim (Vol. 1), Karl von Liechtenstein and Marianne Josepha von Khevenhüller-Metsch (Vol. 2), Nikolaus II. Esterházy de Galantha and Maria Josepha Hermengilde von Liechtenstein (Vol. 3) as well as the well-known Beethoven patron Franz Joseph Maximilian von Lobkowitz and Karolina Theresia von Schwarzenberg (Vol. 4). The volumes featured hand-colored coats of arms representing these dedications as well.