Sir William Jardine (1800 – 1874), born in Edinburgh, was the eldest son of Sir Alexander Jardine, 6th Baronet, of Applegarth, Dumfriesshire. William Jardine was educated at home and then in York. He studied at Edinburgh University taking literary and medical classes as well as natural history and geology. In 1820, he succeeded his father as 7th Baronet. Sir William Jardine was particularly devoted to the study of ornithology, and in addition to his wide ornithological knowledge he was also knowledgeable about many orders of vertebrates. A major figure in 19th Century Victorian science, he owned the finest private natural history museum and library in Britain.
Jardine edited The Naturalist's Library, a popular collection of 40 small, illustrated volumes divided into four main sections: Ornithology, Mammalia, Entomology and Ichthyology, published in Edinburgh in the 1830’s and early 1840’s. Jardine wrote 14 of the volumes, relating to Ornithology and Ichthyology and contracted with leading naturalist in each field for the remaining volumes. His intent, which was certainly achieved, was to create a reference for everyone, not just the wealthy. The artists responsible for the illustrations included Edward Lear. The volumes included over 1300 hand-colored plates produced from engravings by William Lizars, the eminent Scottish engraver and painter of topographical views. Lizars engraved the plates in steel rather than copper to achieve a very fine line on a small tablet, allowing for full and intricate background settings for each described species. Only the major subject (bird, animal, insect or fish) was hand-colored with watercolor, the background was left uncolored.
William H. Lizars was a Scottish painter and engraver. His earliest exhibited paintings were portraits and genre works. After the death of his father in 1812 he concentrated increasingly on engraving, though he continued to exhibit sporadically until 1830. He quickly established himself as Edinburgh's leading engraver, producing portraits and banknotes. With his brother, the surgeon John Lizars, he produced an atlas of human anatomy and was chosen by Audubon for his Birds of America, on which he worked between 1826 and 1830. He then worked on Jardine's project. He also produced topographical engravings in cooperation with various artists.
These lovely plates are from the volumes devoted to Birds of Great Britain and Ireland (vol. II, III, IV) and show with incredible detail illustration these varied species of birds indigenous to the British Isles in the 1800's. Each is just 4” by 6.75”, hand colored, with some age toning to the papers. Since these plates were produced on a larger sheet each image is cut for binding and you will find some irregular edges.