Ornithological art set to fly at auction

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A superb collection of ornithological books goes under the hammer at London auction house Bonhams on 30 May.

Entitled Wassenaar Zoo: a Dutch Private Library, the collection comprises more than 2,400 volumes.

It was put together during the 1950s to form exhibitions at Wassenaar Zoo in Holland, which has since closed, and also includes depictions of cats, monkeys, fish elephants and other animals.

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Greats of the genre

Highlights of the collection include a near-complete run of folios by naturalist John Gould, from works such as A Century of Birds and Birds of Australia (1840–1869). The latter was produced following the artist’s tour of the continent during which he named 300 new species of birds.

Also on sale are major works by French ornithologist François Levaillant, in addition to items from Daniel Giraud Elliot, one of the most important American ornithologists and naturalists of the 19th century and a founder of the American Museum of Natural History in 1869.

Matthew Haley, Bonhams’ head of fine books and manuscripts, said: ‘It is rare to find such a comprehensive library of books on ornithology. All the best-regarded names of this very special art form are included, and there are also sumptuous works on zoology. These scientific landmarks were arguably the natural history documentaries of their day, and show that people have been fascinated by wildlife for centuries.’

Highlights of the collection will be on view in Bonhams New York between 5-9 March, and Bonhams Hong Kong between 26-30 March.

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