An Especially Fine Copy of Arguably the Most Popular of Gould's Massive Sets, this one with 367 Hand-Colored Plates

THE BIRDS OF GREAT BRITAIN.

(London: Printed by Taylor and Francis for the author, 1862-73). 560 x 384 mm. (22 x 15 1/8"). Five volumes. FIRST EDITION.

HANDSOME DARK GREEN MOROCCO, GILT, BY ZAEHNSDORF (stamp-signed in ink on front free endpaper), covers with elaborate gilt border of alternating rules and scrollwork patterns, raised bands, compartments with gilt-ruled frames and gilt lettering or arabesque designs, all edges gilt. WITH A TOTAL OF 367 VERY FINE HAND-COLORED LITHOGRAPHS after John Gould, Josef Wolf, and H. C. Richter. Front pastedowns with armorial bookplate of William Ogilvy Dalgleish of Errol. Ayer/Zimmer, p. 261; Sitwell, "Fine Bird Books," p. 102; Mullens & Swann, p. 242; Wood, p. 365. Light rubbing to edges and extremities, a few shallow scratches or nicks to covers, one text leaf with expert marginal repair, very minor imperfections to contents (isolated thumb smudges, small stains, or light creases to text leaves), the odd plate with a few freckles or other trivial imperfection, but A VERY FINE COPY, THE CONTENTS ESPECIALLY FRESH AND CLEAN, IN WELL-PRESERVED AND ATTRACTIVE BINDINGS.

This is an extraordinarily fine copy of what Mullens & Swann call "the most sumptuous and costly of the British bird books," containing 367 finely hand-colored lithographs, enhanced here by stately bindings that make an impressive appearance on the shelf. The meticulously executed plates were special points of pride for the ornithologist, and his preface leaves us with little doubt why the publication, originally issued in 25 parts, took 12 years to complete: "every sky with its varied tints and every feather of each bird were coloured by hand; and when it is considered that nearly two hundred and eighty thousand illustrations in the present work have been so treated, it will most likely cause some astonishment to those who give the subject a thought." As DNB notes, although Gould was not responsible for the final illustrations here (or in his other works), he was intimately involved in every other aspect of the book's creation from start to finish: "he was the collector (especially in Australia) or purchaser of the specimens, the taxonomist, the publisher, the agent, and the distributor of the parts or volumes. He never claimed he was the artist for these plates, but repeatedly wrote of the 'rough sketches' he made from which, with reference to the specimens, his artists painted the finished drawings. The design and natural arrangement of the birds on the plates was due to the genius of John Gould, and a Gould plate has a distinctive beauty and quality." Sitwell says that, although Gould produced volumes on bird species from all over the world, "the most popular of his works is always likely to be 'Birds of Great Britain.'" In addition to the superb illustrations, which make even the most commonplace warblers and grouses of the region seem grand and even at times exotic, the compositions in this particular work are especially notable because so many of them depict nests, eggs, and young birds alongside the adult specimens. As a scientist, Gould (1804-81) is perhaps the most recognizable name in ornithology after Audubon. Hailing from a modest background, he began his career as a taxidermist and "bird-stuffer" to the Zoological Society, where he was exposed to leading naturalists of the day. His first major publication, "A Century of Birds Hitherto Unfigured from the Himalaya Mountains" (1830-32) was inspired by a collection of specimens given to the society, and its success led him to focus increasingly on bird illustration. As DNB concludes, "The sheer number of imperial folio volumes on birds published by Gould has never been surpassed. He was the entrepreneurial naturalist of the 1800s in England, and the pioneer naturalist of Australia." Mullens & Swann affirm that Gould's oeuvre is "excelled in extent and beauty by the work of no one other ornithologist, past or present." This spectacular set is a prime example of the quality, beauty, and attention to detail that is synonymous with the so-called "British Audubon," and the state of preservation of our copy would make it a prize for any collection.
(Lhi21025)

Keywords: Ornithology, Bird Books

Add to Cart Price: $125,000.00

PJP Catalog: Natural History.011

(Lhi21025) THE BIRDS OF GREAT BRITAIN. JOHN GOULD.
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