DIGGLES, Silvester (1817-1880)
The ornithology of Australia : being illustrations of 244 Australian birds, with descriptive letter-press.
[Brisbane : Printed for the author by T.P. Pugh, 1866-1870]. Folio, nineteenth century gilt-lettered cloth (joints a little worn), bookplate to the front pastedown of English ornithologist George Dawson Rowley, manuscript list of plates tipped-in, manuscript title leaf supplied (lacking the printed title), unpaginated, 126 hand-coloured lithographed plates, heightened with gum arabic, each with an accompanying leaf of descriptive letterpress, occasional foxing; a very good copy.
A seldom offered complete set of one of the most important Australian ornithological publications of the nineteenth century.
English-born naturalist, artist and musician Sylvester Diggles arrrived in Sydney at the end of 1853 and settled in Brisbane in January 1855. In 1859 he became one of the founders of the Queensland Philosophical Society, and in 1861 he established the Brisbane Philharmonic Society. Diggles’ principal interests in the natural sciences were ornithology and entomology, and his The ornithology of Australia was first issued in Brisbane as 126 plates in 21 parts, without text, between 1866 and 1870. It is not known how many sets were issued, but unquestionably the number was small. These plates covered about one third of the known bird population of Australia. However, due to lack of funds, Diggles had to discontinue the project. Between 1870 and 1875, bound versions were issued which included descriptive text, and also a title-page either in manuscript or basically printed. There are a few copies known to have a title-page ornately printed in colour, but these all seem to have some variation, as “Diggles evidently used this title-page for copies which he regarded as important” (Pigott, The Bird man of Brisbane, 2010, p.110). The work was reissued under a separate title in 1877.
Rare; only three complete sets recorded at auction in the past 70 years.
Ferguson 9146, 9147, 9148; Nissen IVB, 247
George Dawson Rowley (1822-1878), his bookplate to front pastedown and initialled note to title page
Dudley Dickison (1896-1967), sold at auction by Peter Arnold, 17 September 2007 (lot 12)
Private collection, Australia