Despite its title, The bird-fancier’s companion (RB.s.2851) isn’t a guide for bird watchers, but a manual on how to breed canaries. Published in Edinburgh in 1763, the book introduces different breeds of canary and offers some advice about how to choose from the birds imported by German traders.
The book goes on to cover breeding of canaries, health tips and how to make canaries sing. It closes with a section on native wild birds which were often kept in cages: skylarks, goldfinches and linnets.
Caged birds were probably imported into Scotland through Leith, which was the main entry point in Scotland for foreign goods in the 18th century. This would also explain why the book was printed for a Leith-based bookseller, William Coke.
The bird-fancier’s companion is very rare; only two other copies are known. The text comes from A new way of breeding canary birds, a work first printed in London in 1742.