Export Bar Placed on Rare 19th Century Ornithology Volumes by H. E. Dresser

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Export Bar Placed on Rare 19th Century Ornithology Volumes by H. E. Dresser

A crucial decision has been made regarding the fate of a unique and invaluable set of 19th-century ornithology volumes. The UK government has imposed an export bar on “A History of the Birds of Europe,” authored primarily by Henry Eeles Dresser, with earlier volumes co-authored by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. These volumes, which have a recommended price of £127,000, are at risk of leaving the country unless a domestic buyer steps forward to acquire them for the nation.

Export Bar Placed On Rare 19th Century Ornithology Volumes By H. E. Dresser

A Legacy of Ornithological Excellence

Henry Eeles Dresser (1838–1915) stands as one of the most influential ornithologists of the late 19th century. His groundbreaking work significantly advanced the study of bird behaviour as a scientific discipline. Notably, Dresser’s research was cited by renowned ornithologist John Gould in his monumental work, “The Birds of Great Britain.”

Dresser’s magnum opus, “A History of the Birds of Europe,” meticulously describes all bird species reliably recorded in the wild across Europe and adjacent geographical areas. The volumes provide essential information on distribution, appearance variations, and migratory patterns. The lithographic plates within these volumes were created by leading bird illustrators, making them a visual treasure trove for ornithology enthusiasts.

A Unique Edition with Remarkable Features

This particular set of volumes is Dresser’s private and unique copy, specially printed for the author himself. It includes original colour proofs painted by the artists, which served as the basis for reproducing illustrations in other published copies. The hand-coloured plates within these volumes were produced by some of the leading wildlife artists of the day, adding to their significance.

Export Bar Decision

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest has recommended an export bar on these volumes. Their decision is based on several criteria, including their outstanding significance to book publishing, printing techniques, ornithological representation, illustration, and annotation. Additionally, they contribute significantly to the study of Dresser’s own collection.

Scholarly Treasure and Complement to the Manchester Museum

Mark Hallett, a committee member, expressed enthusiasm about this unique edition of “A History of the Birds of Europe.” He emphasised its value as a rich research resource for ornithology history and visual birdlife representation in 19th-century Britain. The volumes, featuring written annotations by Dresser himself, would not only serve as a scholarly treasure-trove but also complement the major Dresser archive of ornithological specimens housed at the Manchester Museum.

Deferral Periods and Potential Buyers

The export license application for these volumes will be deferred until September 18, 2024. During the first deferral period, owners will have 15 Business Days to consider any offers to purchase the volumes at the recommended price. If no domestic buyer emerges, a second deferral period will follow, lasting three months after the signing of an Option Agreement.

How to Express Interest

Organisations or individuals interested in acquiring these rare volumes should contact the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art (RCEWA) at 0845 300 6200.

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