Prideaux John Selby

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Eider duck from "Illustrations of British Ornithology"
Melanitta perspicillata from "Jardine's Illustrations of the Duck Tribe"
Prideaux John Selby
Born (1788-07-23)23 July 1788
Alnwick, Northumberland, England
Died 27 March 1867(1867-03-27) (aged 78)
Bamburgh, Northumberland, England
Occupation ornithologist, botanist, artist
Nationality British

Prideaux John Selby FRSE FLS (23 July 1788 – 27 March 1867) was an English ornithologist, botanist and natural history artist.


Selby was born in Bondgate Street in Alnwick in Northumberland, the eldest son of George Selby of Beal and Twizell (d.1804),[1] and his wife, Margaret Cook. He was educated in Durham.[2]

He studied at University College, Oxford. He succeeded in 1804 to the family estates at Beal, and added to the landholdings there at a cost of some £14000 in about 1840. He sold the Beal estate amounting to 1,450 acres (590 ha) in 1850 for £47000 (£4,612,000 at today's prices).

He died at Twizell House and was buried in Bamburgh churchyard.


In 1810 he married Lewis Tabitha Mitford (1782-1859) daughter of Bertram Mitford (1748-1800) of Dennet's Hall in Leicester.[3] They had three daughters.


Selby is best known for his Illustrations of British Ornithology (1821–1834), the first set of life-sized illustrations of British birds. He also wrote Illustrations of Ornithology with William Jardine and A History of British Forest-trees (1842).

Many of the illustrations in his works were drawn from specimens in his collection. In addition to the above works he contributed to Jardine's Naturalist's Library the volumes on the pigeons (1835) and the parrots (1836), the latter illustrated by Edward Lear. He was for some time one of the editors of the Magazine of Zoology and Botany.

His collections were sold in 1885 and became dispersed. The South African birds collected by Andrew Smith went to the Zoology Museum of the University of Cambridge.

See also


  1. ^ ODNB P J Selby
  2. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ IPNI.  P.Selby. 

Further references

Bowey, K. and Newsome, M. (Ed) 2012. The Birds of Durham. Durham Bird Club. ISBN 978-1-874701-03-3


  • Mullens; Swann. (1918). A Bibliography of British Ornithology.
  • Raine, Revd. James (1852). The History and Antiquities of North Durham. p338
  • Jackson, Christine E. (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

External links

  • Gallery of Prideaux John Selby art
  • Selby, Prideaux John (1836) Natural history of parrots Edinburgh: W. H. Lizars. - digital facsimile from Linda Hall Library
  • A collection of ornithological prints from Selby's 1833 British ornithology and his 1835 The natural history of pigeons. - Linda Hall Library
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