A word of clarification. 250 sets of ‘The Birds of Australia’ (BoA) were produced. These were all in ’folio’ size. Some of those remain in book
form, being bound sets of the issued parts. Some have been broken up for the sale of individual pages. The illustrations were produced as ‘lithographs’ - by copying an image onto a slab of limestone with chalk or crayon, then printing onto paper monocoloured
images which were then individually hand-coloured by anonymous artists.
The ’original’ image, before the 250 ‘original lithographs’, would have been a watercolour or preparatory sketch. Some of those by Gould himself,
Elizabeth Gould, or one of the other artists are still in existence in various places. Gould’s lithographs in BoA have been copied by hundreds of copiers. There are at least 2 complete facsimile versions in ‘folio size’. This is an awkward size for the average
bookshelf. The facsimiles show brighter colours than the original lithographs.
About 40 years ago ‘rare’ artwork of bird subjects, including expensive limited-edition facsimiles, became popular. That craze might have subsided
given what is available on the internet. You can paper your walls with downloaded images. At that time Gould’s own complete set of lithographic volumes was put up for sale. Eventually they were sold separately. Gould’s personal BoA was bought by a dealer
in Australia and broken up for sale. I have a copy of the illustrated Sotheby auction catalogue from 1987. The estimated price for Gould’s personal Gang-gang lithograph was $2,500-3,000, for the Regent Honeyeater $450-550.
As I remember, but can’t find a definite confirming record, the Gould lithographs in the Cabinet room in Parlt House came from that sale, having
been acquired as an initiative of Paul Keating.
With a much larger field of interested purchasers, pages from Audubon’s Birds of America are more valuable. They were earlier, and printed by a
copper engraving process.
From: Philip Veerman <>
Sent: Thursday, 25 April 2019 11:07 AM
To: 'Canberra Birds' <>
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Of general ornithological interest - Elizabeth Gould.
Since 2 have mentioned “The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley”, (please include the apostrophe, otherwise it is both wrong and nonsensical), I mention my review
of that book is in CBN (2018) 43(3): 315-318. ACT libraries has copies of the book, I note the book has been issued at least twice, with different cover designs.
I also mention, I remember my father taking me to see Gould’s original folios, during an open exhibition at the National Library of Victoria, when I was about 12
From: Marg Peachey
Sent: Thursday, 25 April, 2019 10:22 AM
To: Geoffrey Dabb
Cc: Terry Bell; Canberra Birds
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Of general ornithological interest - Elizabeth Gould.
I have recently gone down that track after reading the Birdmans Wife as well. Beyond Q at Weston has a set of the Gould Volumes in the original folio size. Facinating!
On Wed, Apr 24, 2019 at 4:58 PM Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:
Yes Terry, an advantage of living in Canberra is there are many books of ornithological interest held by the NLA, which received the benefit of Gregory Mathews' library, many volumes annotated in GMM's own hand.
Digitised versions of the full Gould's Birds of Australia can be found on the internet. You have probably been looking at one of the facsimile sets where the colours are much brighter than in the original faded lithographs. So far as the text is concerned,
an improved version was published by Gould in 1865 as a 'Handbook' nearly 20 years after B of A (1840-1848), particularly useful for the additional vernacular and aboriginal names of birds. This was reprinted by Lansdowne 1972.
From: Terry Bell <>
Sent: Wednesday, 24 April 2019 4:19 PM
To: chatline canberrabirds <>
Subject: Of general ornithological interest - Elizabeth Gould.
Having recently read and enjoyed the Birdmans Wife by Melissa Ashley and to learn more about the Gould’s travels in Australia in 1838/39 I have been visiting the National Library for research h purposes.
Of particular interest to me was the regent honeyeaters, then known as the warty faced h.e., gold and black h.e. or gold and black bee eater.
Apparently , it was very common with similar habits to the current noisy miner population.
No doubt all the information contained in Gould’s famous Birds of Australia ( 8 volumes ) is now in digitalised form and can be readily accessed on the web.
However, perhaps for the older generation, I do wish to share my pleasure around in this forum, and recommend first hand inspections of these truly wonderful works of art, in glorious colour printed way back in 1848.
Sent from my iPad