The avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands [plates] (1893)
R.H. Porter, 1893
Part of: The avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands : with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possessions
In 1890, when Rothschild was 23, he sent a sailor named Henry Palmer to the Sandwich Islands (as the Hawaiian Islands had been named by Captain James Cook in the late 1770s) and most particularly to Laysan, one of the Leeward Islands in the Hawaiian archipelago now part of the Hawaiian Islands Bird Reservation. His instructions were to collect as many different birds as possible, with special attention to inter-island variation. Palmer spent over two years at the task, from December 1890 to August 1893, and sent almost 2000 specimens back to Tring, including representatives of 15 species previously unknown to Western science and several species which have since become extinct.
These specimens formed the basis of Rothschild's monograph The Avifauna of Laysan and the Neighboring Islands. The work includes a survey of the literature on the birds of Hawaii to that date, as well as a condensed version of Palmer's collecting diary. Except for its contemporary publication Aves Hawaiienses by Scott B. Wilson and A.H. Evans (London, 1890-99), The Avifauna of Laysan was the only illustrated work on the birds of Hawaii to that time. The text is accompanied by 83 plates, of which 55 are hand-colored lithographs, mostly by John Gerrard Keulemans, drawn from the skins collected and preserved by Palmer.