Ferdinand Bauer's Remarkable Birds

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SKU: BODS-102432

In 1786, the renowned Austrian natural history artist Ferdinand Bauer travelled to Italy and the Levant with his employer John Sibthorp, Oxford Professor of Botany. The exquisite watercolours he subsequently created from meticulous drawings made during the trip are among the finest examples of natural history illustration. Bauer’s botanical paintings, published eventually in the unrivalled Flora Graeca, are well known. But this extraordinarily industrious artist also made stunning illustrations of over a hundred different bird species, only a very few of which have been published until now.

A general introduction describes Bauer’s early life and achievements, and his experiences of travelling for fifteen months, often facing perilous conditions due to adverse weather, illness, bandits and pirates. It also details his method of recording the precise colours of the birds on his pencil drawings in the field by employing his remarkable scheme of colouring by numbers, each representing a specific hue, to be used as reference when he returned to Oxford to prepare the watercolour paintings.

Each illustration is reproduced here alongside a facing page of vivid expert text describing the characteristics of each bird, interwoven with aspects of their ornithological and cultural history as well as comments on Bauer’s depictions. Not widely seen since they were painted some 230 years ago, and now reproduced in their entirety, these beautiful paintings represent one of the finest collections of late eighteenth-century ornithological art.


Jonathan Elphick is a natural history author, editor, consultant, lecturer and broadcaster, specialising in ornithology. His many previous books include Birds: The Art of Ornithology (2017). 


  • Hardback
  • 240 pages, 330 x 220mm
  • ISBN 9781851246250
  • Publication May 2024

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