Hill Collection Late 19th Century
American artists & authors
In the 19th century the United States joined in exploring the world and particularly in
exploring and expanding its own lands. In 1838-1842, Captain Charles Wilkes led the United
States Exploring Expedition to the South Seas. The resulting narrative report included, as
volume eight, a detailed Mammalogy
and ornithology (1858), by John Cassin [1813-1869], with plates drawn mainly by Titian Ramsey Peale [1799-1885].
Cassin also published
Illustrations of the birds of California, Texas, Oregon, British and Russian America
(1855) intended to provide a general synopsis of North American ornithology and to
describe all North American birds not previously reported by other American authors.
Another serious ornithologist at the close of the 19th century was Charles Johnson
Maynard [1845-1929]. Maynard's best-known publication was the Birds
of eastern North America. A revised edition of 1889-1896 appears in the Hill
Collection, along with the atlas
of plates (1906) that were drawn and hand-colored chiefly by Maynard himself. The
quality of the art does not approach that of many fine 19th-century illustrated bird
books, but Maynard reached a large audience with accurate and useful information. Most of
his published works are part of the ornithology collection in Cornell's Mann Library.
Very significant among many important reports of government sponsored expeditions
within the United States were the Reports
of explorations and surveys to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a
railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, sponsored by the U.S.
War Department. In 1858 John Cassin and George Newbold Lawrence [1806-1895] joined with
Spencer Fullerton Baird, one of America's most important ornithologists, in
issuing volume nine, Birds,
a tome of over a thousand pages. Shortly thereafter Baird revised, added to, and corrected
the report and published it with an atlas of one hundred colored plates as The birds of
North America (1860).
Spencer Fullerton Baird [1823-1887] was a major figure in American
ornithology. Appointed assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1850, and
then secretary in 1878, he demonstrated dedication and organizational ability that
resulted in rapid growth of the museum's collections. It was at Baird's insistence that
the various governmental exploring expeditions, primarily concerned with geographical
studies, included zoological components.
Baird's many writings, thoroughly covered in the collections of the Cornell libraries,
culminated in 1874 and 1875 in the History
of North American birds, written with the assistance of Thomas Brewer and Robert Ridgway. Numerous printings followed, since
this work was accepted as the standard authority on North American birds for many years.
First published in 1874 with the plates in black and white, plus hundreds of woodcuts, it
appeared in 1875 in an edition that included 101 hand-colored plates. The Hill Collection
contains a fine copy of the scarce 1875 version with the colored plates.
Another of the foremost American ornithologists of the late-19th century was Daniel
Giraud Elliot [1835-1915] . Elliot served as the first curator of zoology for
what is today the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and was one of the founders
of the American Ornithologists' Union. He published a number of outstanding monographs
lavishly illustrated in color by noted artists such as Joseph
Wolf, Joseph Smit, and John G. Keulemans, as well as Elliot himself. Some of
these works were published in New York, breaking away from the 19th-century tradition of
looking to London for production of all illustrated ornithological books.
Among Elliot's important works in the Hill Collection are a first edition of A
monograph of the Pittidae, or family of ant thrushes (1863); A
monograph of the Tetraoninae, or family of the grouse (1864-1865); A
monograph of the Bucerotidae, or family of the hornbills (1882); and a
particularly nice copy of The
new and heretofore unfigured species of the birds of North America (1866-1869).
Also present are signed first editions of the three companion volumes published during the
last decade of the century, North
American shore birds (1895), The
gallinaceous game birds of North America (1897), and The
wild fowl of the United States and British possessions (1898).
In 1872 D. G. Elliot's A monograph of the Phasianidae, or family of pheasants
was published. Just over ten years ago, in 1988, a new edition of this work was issued
drawings by Joseph Wolf. It contains reproductions of the original sketches and
the colored plates of the Elliot monograph, an introduction by David M. Lank, and
biographical sketches of Elliot and Wolf, as well as the artists J. Smit and J. G.
Keulemans. The Hill Collection contains a handsome copy of this limited edition volume.
One of the most delicately beautiful bird books of the 19th century was produced by a
family of amateur ornithologists, the Jones family
of Circleville, Ohio. Illustrations
of the nests and eggs of birds of Ohio (1879 to 1886), with its sixty-eight
hand-colored lithographs, is perhaps the loveliest and most accurate portrayal of birds'
nests ever published.
Prepared over a period of seven years, the project was begun by young Genevieve Jones,
who died suddenly after just five plates were issued. Her parents, with other family
members and friends, carried the work to its completion as a memorial to Genevieve.
Dorothy Hill gave her personal copy of this charming two-volume set to the Hill Collection
in 1997. Her gift was celebrated as the six millionth volume to be added to the Cornell
University Library's collections.
Online guide developed from:
Ornithology Collections in the Libraries at Cornell University: A Descriptive Guide
Revised Edition, 1999
Ithaca, New York
© 1999 Cornell University Library
Webpage last revised: 6/10/99 by jfc & clsb.