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Seebohm, Henry, 1832–1895

Henry Seebohm ornithological notebook and diary.

Sheffield?, 1860-1866.
Physical Description:
1 volume (140 pages) ; 27 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
QL690.G7 S44 1860+ Oversize
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Archives & Manuscripts
Henry Seebohm (1832-1895) was an English steel manufacturer as well as an ornithologist, zoologist, explorer, and author. He began his career as a cashier in Seebohm and Dieckstahl Ltd., a steel enterprise in Sheffield. Later he became a manufacturer. After marrying Maria Healey in 1859, he undertook expanded expeditions to Greece, Turkey, Scandinavia, Japan, and Siberia. The last of these figured in two of his published works, Siberia in Europe (1880) and Siberia in Asia (1882). Posthumously, The birds of Siberia was published (1901). His most important works include: A history of British birds (1883), The geographical distribution of the family Charadriidae (1887), The birds of the Japanese empire (1890), and A monograph of the Turdidae (1898). Seebohm was the first European ornithologist to use the American system of trinomial nomenclature for the classification of sub-species. Numerous birds, including the Grey Emutail (Amphilais seebohmi) were named after him.
With the bookplate of Peter Tate.
Other notebooks by Seebohm, similar to the present volume, are now in the collections of the Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives: GBR/0012 MS Add.8794 (for the years 1869-1872) and GBR/0012/MS Add.4471-4476 (5 volumes, 1875-1880).
Bound in contemporary gilt-tooled vellum; with gilt edges.
Of green leaf, bird, and flower: artists' books and the natural world, p. 40
Manuscript field notebook and diary, describing bird watching and woodland walks in northern England, 4 May 1860-4 June 1866, by Henry Seebohm. The manuscript is a fair copy, neatly written in a single hand, in pen and black ink throughout. Text is accompanied by a number of simple ink drawings (or diagrams), along with two graphite drawings pasted in, one watercolor (a male Whinchat, page 2), and roughly 15 sets of feather specimens, lightly affixed to pages of the volume. Seebohm also provides an index (starting at page 123) and a "List of butterflies found near Sheffield" (pages 137-139).
Seebohm's entries note the qualities of eggs, nests, plummage, and song of birds encountered. Like other Victorian ornithologists, Seebohm conventionally shoots the birds that interest him. A bird thus obtained could be studied closely and preserved. Specimens obtained by Seebohm would later be added to the collections of the Sheffield Public Museum and the British Museum of Natural History. Where Seebohm includes specimens of feathers in the present manuscript, he often does so in order to make comparisons of various species. On page 26-27, for example, Seebohm provides a comparison of feathers of the Ring Ouzel, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, and Song Thrush. For these six species, Seebohm lays side-by-side each bird's respective undertail coverts; likewise, for underwing coverts, flanks under the wing, centre of breast, and uppertail coverts.
Seebohm's entry for 17 May 1861 (page 39) is representative of the style throughout the manuscript: "This morning I fired at a bird the species of which I could not make out at the distance, and was somewhat surprised to pick up a Spotted Flycatcher. This bird is usually considered the latest bird of passage and I have seldom seen it before. Independently of the streaks on the breast this bird may readily be distinguished by its bill being very wide at the gape, and furnished with very conspicuous bristles ... I heard the Corn Bunting today for the first time this year. It sits on the top of a tree and utters its monotonous note, which rather from the favourable position in which it is uttered than from its loudness may be hear at a considerable distance. I can best express it by tees, tees, tees, tis-is-is-s-s-r-r-re."
Birds that most occupy Seebohm's attention in the manuscript include the Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Brown Creeper, Garden Warbler, Lesser Redpoll, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Redstart, Ring Dove, Ring Ouzel, Sandpiper, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Whitethroat, Whinchat, Willow Warbler, and Wood Warbler; many others are mentioned as well.
Subject Terms:
Bird watching -- Great Britain.
Birds -- Eggs -- Great Britain.
Birds -- Great Britain.
Birds -- Nests -- Great Britain.
Butterflies -- Great Britain.
Ornithologists -- Great Britain.
Seebohm, Henry, 1832-1895.
Feather (Material)
Ink drawings -- 1860-1866.
Watercolors -- 1860-1866.
Tate, Peter, 1926- former owner.
IIIF Manifest:

"Of Green Leaf, Bird, and Flower" : Artists' Books and the Natural World (Yale Center for British Art, May 15, 2014-August 10, 2014) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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