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Reckoned by many his masterpiece, “…a feast of beauty and a source of wonder”, it includes among the 360 plates those in which the brilliant iridescence of the birds has been emphasised by the addition of gold leaf.

The auction house could trace only two other sets in the original cloth-backed boards – one offered at Swann Galleries in 1980 that lacked four plates but sold for $30,000, and another that made $20,000 at Christie’s New York in 1981.

The latter did include the 58 plates of the six supplementary parts of 1880-87 but was foxed, had loose or defective covers to some parts and other faults.

Ladwell lots

The major ornithological content of the South Cerney sale of November 6, however, comprised another portion of the Ladwell collection of bird books.

Highlights from this third slice included a rare, hand-coloured copy of the five-volume, 1906-11 first of Charles Stonham’s Birds of the British Islands.

The author’s own set, which included the original manuscript and realised £15,000 at Sotheby’s in 2002, also had the original wrappers bound in and contained a limitation leaf stating that only 15 such copies were produced with Lilian Medland’s 318 plates all hand coloured.

Auction records feature no other such copies – but here at last was a second. Bound in contemporary crushed morocco gilt by Hatchards, it realised £10,000.

Sold for £3200 was an exceptional 1889 first of Howard Saunders’ Illustrated Manual of British Birds.

Interleaved throughout, it had been extended to three volumes by the addition of details of sightings, numerous wood engravings, maps and one original ink sketch. This copy once belonged to Alfred Newton, a zoologist and author of an 1893-96 Dictionary of Birds.

A three-volume, “superior issue” first of Seth Lister Mosley’s History of British Birds, their Nests and Eggs…, the three volumes of 1881-92 containing 276 hand-coloured litho plates, sold at £9000 – a price only once bettered at auction for a work that had been originally intended to run to five volumes.

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Goldfinches in a plate from Mosley’s 'History of British Birds', sold by Dominic Winter at £9000.

Very local in its aim, a much later 1912-15 first of Mosley and Frederick Ormerod’s Account of the Birds of the Huddersfield District made a record £4200. Available on subscription only, it appeared in 20 parts and was illustrated with 39 hand-coloured litho plates, or “crayon-watercolour plates” as they are described.

Also including 20 maps showing the distribution of the birds, it was printed by the authors on a hand press.

Fliers at Forum

Avian highlights of a November 21 sale held by Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) included a copy of Richard Bowdler Sharpe’s first publication, an 1868-71 …Family of Kingfishers with its 120 coloured litho plates after JG Keulemans, at £6200, and Captain GE Shelley’s monograph on the …Family of Sunbirds, at £6500. The latter, published in 1876-80, features 121 plates by Keulemans.

A second avian section of this sale presented in some 40 lots the falconry collection of the late Charles Garton.

Two of the more important early works on hawking and hunting, George Turberville’s Booke of Falconrie or Hawking and George Gascoigne’s The Noble Art of Venerie or Hunting, are nearly always found together.

A volume that presented second-edition copies of both works from 1611 sold at £11,000.

Bid to £3800 was copy containing both parts of Latham’s Falconry… of 1658, a work dedicated by its author, Simon Latham, to Sir Thomas Monson, Master Falconer to James I.

Yet another highlight was an 1873 second, enlarged and “best edition” of FH Salvin’s Falconry in the British Isles containing three original watercolours by its illustrator, William Brodrick. It made £9000.