'A superb ORIGINAL hand-colored lithograph of
hummingbirds from "John Gould’s Monograph of the Trochilidae, or Family of
Hummingbirds", published from 1849-1861. John Gould was a self-taught English
naturalist, gifted artist, & talented taxidermist. A man of vision, with a
talent for organization and administration, he founded an empire for
ornithological illustration, publishing more than forty large folio volumes.
These works contain over 3,000 plates, all superbly drawn and meticulously hand
colored. The first work appeared in 1831 and the last in 1888, seven years after
His was a true Horatio Alger story, beginning with humble origins as the son of
a gardener. He learned taxidermy at an early age, becoming a taxidermist for the
Zoological Society of London in 1827. During this same year he married Elizabeth
Coxen, who embraced his ambitions ardently and can be credited with much of his
success. Though Gould sketched the outline designs of every plate himself, many
of the finished drawings, transfers to lithographic stone & hand coloring were
Credit should also be given to his talented secretary Edwin Charles Prince, and
the team of gifted artists assembled to complete these tremendous publications.
These included E. Lear, J. Wolf, W.M. Hart & H. C. Richter. By mid life Gould
was recognized as an ornithological authority and a man of science & in 1843 was
elected Fellow of the Royal Society.
His first work was "A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains", published
in 1831. Unlike many of his peers, he was a consummate businessman and skilful
marketer, so his works became very successful early on. This provided funding
for his travel to far flung parts of the world such as Australia, America and
New Guinea to observe and sketch the species of these countries.
The inspiration for his work on hummingbirds was derived from travels in
America. All of his works were very expensive at the time of publication, and
could only be purchased by the very wealthy. It is estimated that only about 250
copies of the hummingbirds were produced, so these prints are a rare treasure
indeed. Originally published in 25 parts with a 5 part supplement, the last
three parts of the supplement were published posthumously by Sharpe.
Of these six volumes of hummingbirds, consisting of 418 hand colored plates,
even fewer have the highly prized gold or silver iridescence, produced by
layering gold or silver leaf under the watercolor paint to mirror the shimmering
beauty of each bird. References: Fine Bird Books, p.102, Bird Artists of
the World, p. 259.'
From Panteek's Antique Prints