CASSIN, John (1813-1869). Illustrations of the Birds of California, Texas, Oregon, British and Russian America. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1856

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CASSIN, John (1813-1869). Illustrations of the Birds of California, Texas, Oregon, British and Russian America. Intended to Contain Descriptions and Figures of all North American Birds Not Given by Former American Authors, and a General Synopsis of North American Ornithology. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1856

8vo., (10 2/8 x 6 7/8 inches). Hand-coloured lithographed frontispiece and 49 plates by William E. Hitchcock, some after George G. White, all printed and hand-colored by J.T. Bowen of Philadelphia. Contemporary half brown morocco, marbled paper boards (rebacked preserving the original spine).

Provenance: with the ownership inscription of Col. George A. McCall (1802-1868) on the title-page, some marginal notes on pages 214 and 262, and an 4-page autograph manuscript description of the Ground cuckoo laid-in.

First edition, and a fine association copy of this rare and important work, a supplement to Audubon, and one of the cornerstones of American ornithological literature. Cassin's work, first published in parts between July 1853 and June 1855 (with a title-page issued in 1856), was intended to complement the octavo edition of Audubon's work.  

The annexation of Texas and the addition of California and New Mexico to the United States had led to increased exploration and research in the South West. "At first the Audubons were receptive... however, Cassin wanted shared credit on the title page and a free hand in correcting the errors of nomenclature of the elder Audubon, a touchy point with the sons.  In the end, Cassin went on his own, although clearly following the Audubon format and also using J.T. Bowen as a lithographer" (Reese). Anker 92; Ayer p. 124; Fine Bird Books p. 64; Nissen IVB 173; Reese American color Plate Books 42; Ripley p. 54; Wood p. 281; Zimmer p.124-25.

[Laid-in]  George McCall.  Autograph manuscript, :Geococcyx viaticus." 3 1/2 pages, 4to.

McCall provides detailed observations of the Ground Cuckoo, used by Cassin in his text: "Our esteemed friend, Col. George A. McCall, with his usual clearness and scientific accuracy, gave the first satisfactory account of this bird, in the Proceedings of the Philadelphia Academy" (p. 214).

Cassin's text on p. 215 quotes directly from McCall's manuscript: "At first, I thought--as is the general impression among the Mexicans,--that his powers of flight were extremely limited; but he will, when suddenly alarmed in open ground, rise with a light, quick [rapid in mss] motion, and continue his flight..."  McCall has made two corrections in the margins of pages 214 and 262 in his copy and on the latter page, which quotes his description of the Curved-Billed Thrush, he has excised a sentence and noted: "Impertinently interlarded by the Editor John Cassin."

McCall distinguished himself under Zachary Taylor during the Mexican War.  McCall had long been a collector of bird specimens in Florida, Mexico, the American West and Texas.  The Texas Screech Owl, Otus asio mccalli, is named in his honor.  Cassin, in his preface to the book, lists McCall first among the "kind friends whose contributions have added so much to the interest of this volume" (p.v.).