1st Edition 1867, J. C. Juta, Cape Town and Longman, Green & Co, London. Octavo, 220 x 145 mm, xvi, 382, ii, xxi pp. Preface, Addenda et Corigenda, Systematic Arrangement Main Text, Meaning of Terms, Index. Black and white line drawing frontispiece of bird with descriptions. Rebound in green leather with guilt titles to spine.
Edgar Leopold Layard (1824 – 1900) was a British diplomat and a naturalist mainly interested in ornithology and to a lesser extent the molluscs. He worked for a significant part of his life in Ceylon South Africa, Fiji and New Caledonia. He studied the zoology of these places and established natural history museums in Sri Lanka and South Africa. Several species of animals are named after him. He arrived in the Cape in 1854 to take up a post in the Civil Service, and was appointed to the Colonial Secretary's office. Recommended by the Governor of the Cape, Sir George Grey, he took charge of the Museum collection in his spare time which he transformed into The South African Museum. Layard was the Curator until 1872, when he was succeeded by Roland Trimen.
His interests were more ornithological and conchological than mammalian, but he was also an enthusiastic collector of invertebrates as well as vertebrates. Minerals, fossils and ethnological material were also accepted and displayed. He believed that the Museum should have "something for everybody" and followed this principle throughout his curatorship. He realized the need to place his collections before the public and the displays he set up, usually with his own hands, were well received.
In 1865 he found an extraordinary whale stranded near Cape Town and although it was thought to be a new genus at the time, it still retains layardii as its specific name, and is known as Layard's Beaked Whale, (Mesoplodon layardii).
In 1887, he published The Birds of South Africa, in which he described 702 species. This work was later updated by Richard Bowdler Sharpe in 1875 with 12 engraved illustrations.
Condition: 4cm tear to dedication page. Small tear to frontispiece page at spine. Age toning throughout. Very Good.
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