Washington DC: Department of the Interior, 1859. First edition. Single sheet matted in rag board. Fine original hand-colored lithograph. Quarto (9 x 11.25 inches). Sizable in format and exceedingly rare as only 1000 sets of the Reports of the Birds of the Boundary of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey were completed. Illustrated by Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887), Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, this fine print was produced by 19th Century America's premier lithographic firm; JT Bowen & Company in Philadelphia.
An astute ornithologist, and one time student of John James Audubon, Baird became one of the most respected naturalists of nineteenth century America. During his tenure at the Smithsonian Institution from 1850-1878, Baird elevated the artistic integrity of the published Congressional Reports which documented the topographical and naturalists' surveys of the American West during the mid nineteenth century. These surveys included the Pacific Railroad Surveys of 1853-1855 and the US and Mexican Boundary Survey. Although the finely hand-colored lithographed plates which illustrated the surveys were presented in a notoriously disorganized fashion, they served as a valuable visual record of many western birds and animals newly discovered and not previously documented or rendered. Under Baird's supervision both the quality of the illustrations and subsequent printings of these landmark images were recognized as some of the finest naturalist work to be produced in America at the time. Baird chose the venerable firm of JT Bowen & Company to produce these fine hand-colored lithographs; an important distinction in that the very same artists and lithographers were at work creating the fine hand-colored plates for Audubon's monumental productions of both the Royal Octavo Editions and Imperial Folio Edition of the Birds of America and The Quadrupeds of North America. (Blum, Picturing Nature. Princeton; Princeton University Press, 1993. Sitwell & Buchanan, Fine Bird Books. New York; The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990. Wood, Casey A., An Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology. London: Oxford University Press, 1931.). Fine. Item #7215