Our oldest books on bird eggs

by Ann Sylph on

Traditionally bird eggs are used to celebrate Easter and so this month we are featuring the oldest books in ZSL Library devoted to bird eggs. Both are published in Latin as at that time it was the universal language of scholarship.

The oldest book we hold which is solely devoted to bird eggs is Delle uova e dei nidi degli uccelli, libro primo del conte Giuseppe Zinanni... aggiunte in fine alcune osservazioni,  con una dissertazione sopra varie spezie di cavallette,  published by Bortoli in Venice in  1737.

Title page in Latin of Zinanni's book on bird eggs
Title page of Zinanni's book on bird eggs

Plate 5 of Zinanni's book on bird eggs showing illustrations of 8 bird egss
Plate 5 in Zinanni's book on bird eggs


The next book by Jacobi Theodori Klein was published in 1766, in Leipzig Ova avium plurimarum ad naturalem magnitudinem delineata et genuinis coloribus picta (Sammlung verschiedener Vogel Eier). It was published by Kanter.

Title page in Latin of Klein's book on bird eggs published in 1766
Title page of Klein's book on bird eggs, 1766

Colour illustration of 9 species of bird eggs published in 1766
Plate 5 in Klein's book on bird eggs published in 1766

2020 Update : Tim R. Birkhead and  A. Pilastro have published an open access paper about these two books and another historic book about bird eggs : Three early books on birds' eggs: Marsili's Danubius Pannonico-Mysicus (1726), Zinanni's Delle Uova e dei Nidi degli Uccelli (1737) and Klein's Ova avium plurimarum as naturalem magnitudinem delineata et genuinis coloribus picta (1766) in European Journal of Zoology, 2018, Vol. 85, No. 1 https://doi.org/10.1080/24750263.2018.1549277

Why do eggs fail? Is the ZSL Science Event on 14 Jul 2020 18:00 - 19:45.


This amazing and unusual egg is decorated with a map of ZSL Whipsnade. It was presented to us by Laura Beal and the egg had formerly sat on the desk of her father, Captain W.P. Beal, the first Superindentent of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Find out more about them both and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo during the Second World War. 

Map of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo painted on an egg
Map of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo painted on an egg

Read also in one of our previous blogs about Henry Jones and his paintings of bird eggs. 

Whilst another blog about 'Trees of life' features an egg shaped `tree'. 

Explore our collections further by using our online catalogue and follow us on Twitter: @ZSLLibrary.

ZSL Prince Philip Zoological Library & Archives has extensive collections and we use them to enthuse, inspire and inform about animals and their conservation. ZSL Fellows, ZSL Members and members of the public are welcome to make use of the collections. Please be sure to bring your membership card when visiting or photo ID and proof of address.

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