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That copy, which had a short tear to one plate and was bound in contemporary half brown morocco gilt, was one of half a dozen natural history colour plate collections offered as part of a special Fine Arts sale conducted last month by Lawrences of Crewkerne, and it brought a bid of £64,000.

Last November, at Christie’s, another copy of this most sumptuous of Elliot’s great monographs, bound in contemporary green half morocco, was bid up to £72,000, but at that same King Street sale a copy of Elliot’s Monograph of the Felidae, or Family of the Cats, a first edition set bound up (in later half crushed green morocco) from the original parts of 1878-83 and preserving the upper parts of the wrappers, was left unsold on a strong estimate of £50,000-60,000.

A copy offered in this Crewkerne sale, in a contemporary half morocco binding that showed some staining – even some nibbling – was estimated at a more modest £25,000-35,000 and found a buyer at £34,000. In this work, it was Wolf who prepared the 43 coloured litho plates – one of which is reproduced above here – from the original drawings of Joseph Smit.

The other bird books offered by Lawrences were a five-vol. Gould Birds of Great Britain of 1862-73, containing 367 coloured litho plates and bound in contemporary half green morocco, which sold at £34,000; Richard Bowdler Sharpe’s ...Birds of Paradise and ...Bower Birds, published in parts by Sotherans in 1891-98 and here bound as two volumes in half green morocco gilt to preserve the front wrappers and the 79 coloured litho plates, which made £15,000; and Lord Lilford’s Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Isles, a seven-vol. second edition of 1885-97 containing 421 chromo or hand-coloured litho plates after Thorburn, Keulemans and others, which reached £900, despite some dampstaining to the bindings and upper margins of the plates in Vols. VI & VII. One plate in Vol.II of Lilford’s work, depicting a sand martin, was catalogued as being an original watercolour.

A Curtis Flora Londinensis..., the two volumes of 1775-98 in defective bindings but the 435 hand coloured engraved plates still clean, sold for £5800.

Lawrences, Crewkerne,
February 15
Buyer’s premium: 15 per cent