(London: Published by the Author, 1880-1). 565 x 390 mm. (22 1/4 x 15 3/8"). Part I with text and plates; part II with text only (all published). Two parts in one volume. Part II edited by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. FIRST AND ONLY EDITION.
Pleasing green three-quarter crushed morocco over green cloth boards, raised bands, spine compartments with gilt lettering and tools. WITH 10 VERY PLEASING HAND-COLORED LITHOGRAPHIC PLATES. With original blue upper wrapper to each part bound in. Ayer/Zimmer, p. 263; Sitwell, "Fine Bird Books," p. 102. Lower cover with a few negligible scratches and a light stain or two, original wrappers with a faint crease down the middle, plates with just a touch of toning around the edges, but A REALLY EXCELLENT COPY, ENTIRELY FRESH AND CLEAN.
This brief but very pleasing work was John Gould's final publication before his death in 1881. It was originally conceived as a four-part series, but only Part I was completed in its entirety; Part II, containing just text, was published shortly after Gould's death by his friend and fellow ornithologist, R. Bowdler Sharpe, who also acted as editor. According to the nota bene on the wrapper for Part I, the illustrations found here were "principally taken from the Author's works on 'Birds of Asia,' 'Australia,' and 'New Guinea.'" As these sources suggest, the pittidae, a family of small, tropical birds, are found almost entirely in the aforementioned regions. The males of the species are known to possess a great range of plumage--from the somber Black Ground-Thrush to the jewel-like and aptly named Necklaced Pitta--an attribute played up to great effect in the excellent coloring of the present plates. The hand-colored lithographs seen here, and in most of Gould's work from the 1830's on, were special points of pride for the scientist. According to DNB, "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." Although he did not create the actual lithographs himself, he did create preliminary sketches upon which the plates were ultimately based. He was also intimately involved with the publication process from start to finish, including acting as agent and distributor of his own work. As a scientist, Gould (1804-81) is the most recognizable name in ornithology after Audubon. (STCNi1601)