Bolton’s Harmonia Ruralis

James Bolton, Harmonia Ruralis: or an essay towards a natural history of British songbirds. Illustrated with figures the size of life, of the birds, male and female, in their natural habitat...

First edition, 1794-6


Bolton’s two-volume work, Harmonia Ruralis, features exquisite hand-coloured engravings of British birds and their nests which is quite breathtaking in its delicate beauty and attention to detail.

James Bolton (1735-99) was a self-taught artist who was born and lived his entire life in the Yorkshire town of Halifax. A publican, he and his wife Sarah had four children, yet he found time – together with his brother Thomas – to pursue an active interest in natural history with a special interest in botany and mycology.

Bolton wrote and illlustrated many important works on the natural history of Britain, including significant studies of the flora, ferns and fungi of his native country. Boltonia, a genus of daisy-like plants, is named after him.

Bolton’s illustrative work remains justifiably popular today and his studies continue to hold scientific value.