HENRY CONSTANTINE RICHTER. Dafila acuta (pintailed duck). Watercolor on Paper.

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Dafila acuta (pintailed duck)

Watercolor on Paper.

This watercolor was the basis of

Vol. V:  18. Dafila acuta (pintailed duck)

The Birds of Great Britain (London: Taylor and Francis for the Author, 1862–1873) was Gould’s most popular of his large-format multi-volume ornithological works, with the greatest number of subscribers. Even more than in his inaugural set, the Birds of Europe (completed 1837), Gould’s challenge was to circumvent the conception of British birds as ordinary or unremarkable. He had to bring the birds that circled overhead in front of his readers’ eyes with freshness and striking beauty.

Gould wrote in the Preface that he “felt that there was an opportunity of greatly enriching the work by giving figures of the young of many of the species of various genera – a thing hitherto almost entirely neglected by authors; and I feel assured that this infantile age of birdlife will be of much interest…” The text is longer than in any of his other works, and many of the illustrations were prepared from freshly-killed specimens.