Alexander Wilson: Tyrant Flycatcher/Great Crested Flycatcher/Small green Crested Flycatcher/Pe-we Flycatcher/ Wood Pe-we Flycatcher


Alexander Wilson. “13. Tyrant Flycatcher/Great Crested F./Small green Crested F./Pe-we F./ Wood Pewe F. ” From American Ornithology.  New York & Philadelphia: Collins & Co. & Harrison Hall, 1829. Second edition. Folio; ca. 10 x 13. Engraving. Original hand coloring. Very good condition.

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An original antique print by Alexander Wilson, “the father of American ornithology.”  Wilson earned this title both because of his American Ornithology, which was the first natural history just on American birds–first issued between 1808 and 1814 and so predating Audubon by about two decades–and because he was the first American citizen to become a full-time scientist in this field.  Wilson, a Scottish immigrant, drew most of the birds for his ornithology himself with the engraving mostly by Alexander Lawson and John G. Warnicke.  Wilson was working with a small budget, and so had to crowd as many specimens as he could onto one plate for the series.  Although he fell far short of his goal of depicting every species of bird in North America, his is a highly respected work in the history of science, and he was the leading competitor and chief precursor of Audubon.

The importance and popularity of Wilson’s Ornithology led to the creation of a second edition of the work about a decade later.  By this time there was more money available for the work, so the paper is larger and of better quality. The plates used are the same, so the images are identical and of essentially the same historic interest as those from the first edition.