Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories, F. V. Hayden, U. S. Geologist-in-Charge, Miscellaneous publications—No.3. Birds of the Northwest: A Hand-Book of the Ornithology of the Region Drained by the Missouri River and its Tributaries.

Washington: Government Printing Office, 1874.

Price: $100.00


About the item

First Edition. 1 vols. 8vo. Blue cloth gilt. Minor darkening to spine. Ayer, p. 143.

Item #12287

Ayer credits this work as giving a “thorough treatment of the subject. Extensive synonymies, distribution of species, specimens dsecured on United States government expeditions, field notes on habits, and descriptions of new species and genera, with occasional analytical keys have made an authoritative and readable book.”

Elliott Coues (1842-1899) became interested in natural history, in particular ornithology, when his family moved from New Hampshire to Washington, D. C. Coues became aquainted with the Smithsonian Institution and its collections, which fed his interests in natural history. As an assistant surgeon in the Army during the Civil War, Coues “collected, studied, and published extensively on birds during his peripatetic military assignments” (DSB) at various forts in Arizona, North Carolina and in the Dakota Territory. Later, he served as naturalist for the Northen Boundary Commission (1873-1876) and for the Hayden survey in the ensuing four years. He was professor of anatomy at Columbian College (now George Washington University) from 1877 to 1886, and was editor of natural history subjects for the “Century Dictionary.” He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences among numerous other societies, and was a founder of the American Ornithologists’ Union, an early conservation group. Coues published some very well-received, innovative tracts on birds, with “Key to North American Birds” and “Check-List of North American Birds.” “A distinctive feature of the “Check-List” was Coues’s corrections in the orthography and pronunciation of original scientific names . . . He was a leader in the trend of his era toward reducing the great number of species names to varieties, especially in local forms” (DSB). He was considered a “lucid writer with a charming style, second only and successor to [Spencer F.] Baird [his mentor] in ornithology, Coues presented a great deal of information on the behavior and life histories of birds” (DSB). Late in life, he checked and annotated manuscripts of various American western exploration, most notably the journals of Lewis and Clark and of Zebulon Pike. “In his meticulous fashion, he retraced the explorers’ routes and enlarged considerably upon their natural history observations” (DSB).