GOULD, John (1804-1881) - HART, William Matthew (1830-1908). The Birds of New Guinea and the adjacent Papuan islands, including many new species recently discovered in Australia

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GOULD, John (1804-1881) - HART, William Matthew (1830-1908). The Birds of New Guinea and the adjacent Papuan islands, including many new species recently discovered in Australia. By John Gould, F.R.S. Completed after the Author's Death by R. Bowdler Sharpe, F.L.S. &c. Zoological Department, British Museum. SOME PROOF PLATES. London: Henry Sotheran & Co., 36 Piccadilly, 1875-1888.

Folio (21 6/8 x 15 inches). Title-page with printed overslip "SOME PROOF PLATES", 90 uncoloured lithographed plates, one or two with lithographs also on verso, mostly after Hart, some after Gould and Hart, one or two by Sharpe, ANNOTATED THROUGHOUT BY GOULD AND HART (some plates quite dusty, and occasionally creased, some cropped). Modern half red morocco, gilt.


First published in 25 parts with 320 plates, and GOULD'S LAST MAJOR WORK. Including Gould's celebrated depictions of many magnificent Birds of Paradise and colourful Parrots. After a lifetime of publishing the imperial folio volumes on birds that made him famous, and an achievement which has never been surpassed, Gould died on 3 February 1881 shortly after the publication of the 12th part of the planned 25. The remaining 13 parts were edited or written by Sharpe and illustrated by Hart.

Initially employed as a taxidermist [he was known as the 'bird-stuffer'] by the Zoological Society, Gould's fascination with birds from the east began in the "late 1820s [when] a collection of birds from the Himalayan mountains arrived at the Society's museum and Gould conceived the idea of publishing a volume of imperial folio sized hand-coloured lithographs of the eighty species, with figures of a hundred birds (A Century of Birds Hitherto Unfigured from the Himalaya Mountains, 1830-32). Gould's friend and mentor N. A. Vigors supplied the text. Elizabeth Gould made the drawings and transferred them to the large lithographic stones. Having failed to find a publisher, Gould undertook to publish the work himself; it appeared in twenty monthly parts, four plates to a part, and was completed ahead of schedule.  "With this volume Gould initiated a format of publishing that he was to continue for the next fifty years, although for future works he was to write his own text. Eventually fifty imperial folio volumes were published on the birds of the world, except Africa, and on the mammals of Australia-he always had a number of works in progress at the same time. Several smaller volumes, the majority not illustrated, were published, and he also presented more than 300 scientific papers.  

"His hand-coloured lithographic plates, more than 3300 in total, are called 'Gould plates'. Although he did not paint the final illustrations, this description is largely correct: 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. His wife was his first artist. She was followed by Edward Lear, Henry Constantine Richter, William Matthew Hart, and Joseph Wolf" (Gordon C. Sauer for DNB).

William Matthew Hart, an American artist, began working for Gould in the summer of 1851. He made the pattern plates (the master illustrations to be copied by the colouring workshop) for the humming birds and highlighted them with the metallic paints that make those plates so exquisite. He worked on 'The Birds of Great Britain' with H C Richter, and by 1870 was Gould's chief artist and lithographer, in addition to his continued work finishing the plates by hand. Following Gould's death in 1881, Hart was employed by Dr R Bowdler-Sharpe to complete Gould's work on 'The Birds of New Guinea'. Hart's most celebrated work was on the Birds of Paradise in 'The Birds of New Guinea' where his  their extravagant colouring suited his tendency to overcolour. Maureen Lambourne "John Gould Birdman", page 42.Nissen IVB 373; Anker 181; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.102; Sauer 27; Wood p.365; Zimmer pp.262-263. Catalogued by Kate Hunter