John Gould (1804 - 1881) was both a zoologist and an ornithologist and is renowned for his large-scale, lavishly illustrated volumes of birds. He was in his twenties when his first work, ‘A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains’ was first issued (1830-32) and he continued publishing without a break until his death in 1881. In fact, his very last book, the ‘Birds of Paradise’, was published posthumously (1891-98). He produced the illustrated plates with the assistance of his wife Elizabeth Gould and collaborated with several other artists including Edward Lear, Joseph Wolf, William Hart and Henry Constantine Richter.
|Birds of Paradise|
Gould was prolific, but demanded a high standard of work, not only from the various artists working on the books, but also in the science. Minutely examining each bird, he noted differences and similarities previously unrecorded and some of the species ‘found’ in this way were even named after himself and his family. He corresponded with established zoologists and ornithologists as well, adding their knowledge to his and vice-versa and no doubt this contributed to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. This level of accuracy was not only limited to birds, as we can see in many of the humming-bird plates, the beautiful and closely examined flowers and plants are accurate enough to identify.
|John Gould's humming-bird plates also depict detailed and accurate flowers and plants.|
|The humming-bird plates are considered the brightest & most decorative of Gould's prints.|
|Gould collaborated with a number of other artists, most notably Edward Lear.|
The earlier works, the ‘Birds of Europe’, ‘Birds of Australia’, ‘American Partridges’, and the first edition of the monographs on Trogons and Toucans are quite different in style from the later ones, concentrating the image on the bird itself and leaving the background rather sketch-like. The drawings of the birds in these earlier works are also sketch-like, displaying the qualities of lithography to the full. By the time Gould was publishing the monograph on humming-birds, the whole image was much more like a painting, with more realistic backgrounds (showing the plants that the individual species ate and how they ate them) and a less painterly effect on the actual birds. In an attempt to accurately show the colours of the birds, Gould combined innovative printing techniques with a heavy use of colour. The use of complete backgrounds is particularly evident in the ‘Birds of Great Britain’ which is recognised as Gould’s most ambitious work, both in the number of birds depicted and the size of the edition.
|Birds of Great Britain is considered Gould's most ambitious work.|