Lewin watercolor: “Sandwich Tern”


William Lewin “203. “Sandwich Tern.” ” Watercolor drawing from The Birds of Great Britain, with Their Eggs, Accurately Figured. London, 1789-1794. First edition. Quarto. With minor imperfections to paper, as to be expected. Otherwise, in very good condition.

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These charming ornithological drawings are the creation of William Lewin (1747-1795), a London born illustrator turned natural history artist. The first edition of his Birds of Great Britain, begun in 1789, was a remarkable undertaking, as it contained 323 original watercolor illustrations (271 birds, 52 eggs), each of which he painted sixty times over for his subscribers. Thus this work has been described as “the rarest of all English bird books” as it is unique among such works for its original drawings. Lewin’s images are simple and delicate, one bird to a picture, pictured in some characteristic pose. The colors are soft and muted, lightly applied, befitting the limpid quality of the medium. For the age, comprehensive treatment of the subject, and the extraordinary way the images were created, this is a special ornithological work.