Morris, F. O.

A Natural History of the Nests and Eggs of British Birds

  • Second edition, and an unusually lovely copy of this lavish colour plate book on the nests and eggs of British birds.

    The author, Reverend F. O. Morris was, like many 19th-century Church of England clergymen, a natural historian in his spare time. Morris edited The Naturalist from 1856 to 1860 and wrote tracts and books on a large number of subjects, including evolution (which he did not support), nature preservation, vivisection, and butterflies and moths.

    But he was most fond of birds, and his most successful works were this series, originally published between 1853 and 1856 (several impressions of the second edition appeared in the 1860s and 70s), and his six-volume History of British Birds (1850-57). "He also supported the causes of bird protectionism... in a rare absence from his parish he travelled to London to give evidence before the select committee on wild birds protection on 26 June 1873. He was instrumental in establishing the Plumage League in 1885, and he was one of the earliest members of the Selbourne League, which was created in December of the same year. In 1888 the government acknowledged his work as a naturalist with the award of a civil-list pension of £100 per annum" (ODNB).

    This set combines 232 colour illustrations of birds' eggs and nests with short text descriptions of each species' reproductive habits. Among the birds included are favourites such as the golden eagle, peregrine falcon, goshawk, snowy owl, blue tit, kingfisher, raven, magpie, swift, goldfinch, starling, nightingale, wren, pheasant, capercaillie, bittern, puffin, and even the great auk, which was already extinct at the time of publication.

    It is unusual to find this book in such nice condition in the original publisher's cloth. The gilt birds' nest designs to the spines and covers are particularly attractive, and the plates in all three volumes are clean and fresh. A wonderful set that would make an excellent gift for a birder.

  • London: George Bell and Sons, 1875. 3 volumes, large octavo. Original green pebble-grain cloth elaborately blocked in gilt and blind with bird's nest and foliage decoration, yellow coated endpapers. Colour frontispiece to each volume and 229 plates with tissue guards. 8-page bookseller's catalogue at rear of each volume. Small ownership ink stamps to front free endpapers. Spines a little rolled, minor rubbing at the extremities, two spots to lower board of volume I, small split in the cloth at the lower joint of volume III, occasional light spots to contents, but overall a bright, fresh set, the gilt sharp and the plates clean. Very good condition.

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