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Annotated Reference Guide to Collectible Books

Bewick History of British Birds

Thomas Bewick’s History of British Birds is one of the most beloved natural history texts that has ever been written. The book was greatly admired in its own time; Bewick was praised by such luminaries as William Wordsworth and Charlotte Bront? for his skill with language and beautiful wood engravings. Bewick originally apprenticed as an engraver and is also celebrated for his engravings on cutlery and woodblocks. History of British Birds is also notable for its place as one of the very first guides to birdwatching and observing nature in general. The book was published in two volumes divided between land birds and water birds; the first being written by Ralph Beilby (Bewick took over writing duties for the second). Generally, both volumes are sold together.

The volumes were first published together in 1804 by Bewick, Longman, and Rees of Newcastle. This two volume set includes the second edition of the first volume and the first edition of the second volume. It usually is valued between $500 and $1,200, depending on condition. Because Bewick’s History of British Birds is such a classic of natural historical literature, it is possible to find copies that have notable previous owners or are otherwise interesting for their provenance.

Subsequent editions of History of British Birds decrease in value. An 1826 edition by T. Bewick of Newcastle and an 1832 edition by R.E. Bewick of Newcastle are both valued between around $100 and $500.

Bewick, Thomas. History of British Birds. Edward Walker: Newcastle (1804). Third Edition; 2 volumes

Bewick, Thomas. History of British Birds. Bernard Quaritch: London (1885). Memorial Edition; 2 volumes; 750 copies

Bewick, Thomas. History of British Birds. Folio Society: London (2010). 2 volumes; Introduced by Jenny Uglow