According to its preface, Yarrell's British Birds was first published "in thirty-seven parts of three sheets each, at intervals of two months; the first Part was issued in July 1837 and the last in May 1843. The sheets were then collected into two volumes, with the addition of "many occurrences of rare birds and of some that were even new to Britain". The additional birds were listed and briefly described in the Preface and "the new subjects have been engraved on single leaves, so paged, that the bookbinder may insert these separate leaves among the birds of the genus to which each respectively belongs."
British Birds was illustrated with drawings by Alexander Fussell. Yarrell thanked him for "nearly five hundred of the drawings on wood here employed". The artist of the remaining drawings (the title-page asserts there are 520 in the book) is not identified. Yarrell also thanked John Thompson and his sons for the "very long series of engravings" of the drawings,
At the time of its release, Yarrell's Birds was considered the best work on the subject both scientifically and artistically. "It quickly became the standard reference work for a generation of British ornithologists, replacing Thomas Bewick's book of the same name through its increased scientific accuracy, but following Bewick in its mixture of scientific data, accurate illustrations, detailed descriptions and varied anecdotes, as well as in the use of small 'tail-piece' engravings at the ends of articles. This made the book attractive to the public as well as to specialists. Yarrell, a newsagent without university education, corresponded widely with eminent naturalists including Carl Linnaeus, Coenraad Jacob Temminck and Thomas Pennant to collect accurate information on the hundreds of species illustrated in the work" (Wikipedia article on A History of British Birds, accessed 6-2020).
Fifty copies were issued on large paper.