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Elizabeth Symonds (British, Fl. 1830), Humming Birds: Painted by Elizabeth Symonds.

  • $ 35,000.00

Elizabeth Symonds (British, Fl. 1830)
Humming Birds: Painted by Elizabeth Symonds.
Pengethly, [ca 1830].
4to., (9 4/8 x 7 4/8 inches).

A fine album of 49 original graphite, watercolor and gouache drawings of nests and birds, heightened with gum arabic, each numbered and accompanying tissue guard captioned with Latin and English names for the birds. Original green morocco, gilt, all edges gilt (spine a little scuffed).

Provenance: with the engraved book label of Mildred Bliss - Dumbarton Oaks, on the front paste-down; with the penciled inscription

“Examined by Major Michael Symonds (born at Pengethly) 14 Oct. 1957, and his wife” at the foot of the title-page. An album of extremely fine and accomplished watercolors of hummingbirds by Elizabeth Symonds, probably the wife of the Rev. Thomas Powell Symonds, of Pengethly (later Manor) whom she married in 1816.

Since Christopher Columbus first recorded seeing a hummingbird in his journal of October 21, 1492: “Little birds... so different from ours it is a marvel”, Europeans have been fascinated by this “[G]littering fragment of the rainbow, moving on humming winglets through the air, suspended as if by magic in it, flitting from one flower to another” (John James Audubon). During the 19th-century, it was common to keep menageries of these birds, the best known of which was kept by the celebrated John Gould. “The climax of Gould’s career as the impresario of Victorian ornithology was an exhibition of his collection of stuffed hummingbirds in a specially erected building in the Zoological Society’s gardens at Regent’s Park...Gould wrote of his early fascination with hummingbirds, ‘these wonderful works of creation’: ‘my thoughts were often directed to them in the day, and my night dreams have not unfrequently carried me to their native forests in the distant country of America’” (Diana Donald: ‘Picturing Animals in Britain’ page 59).

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