John Gould`s Birds of Australia -

To: Graeme Stevens <>,
Subject: John Gould`s Birds of Australia -
From: brian fleming <>
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2010 18:34:33 +1100
Dear Graeme,
A long time ago the BOC (not BOCA in those days) used to hold study meetings in the Melbourne Museum Theatrette (off Russell Street). Mr McEvey (Birds Curator) would always bring out skins and, where relevant, a volume or two of Gould. One day I got brave and asked if I could come and see the whole set. The librarian was very kind and I went through the lot. The plates are glorious, but it was the experience of it as a *book* which I enjoyed. The text is important (though quite often he had a specimen only,a brief note on where it came from, and very little else.) When the text recounts his own or Gilbert or his other collectors' experiences, it is really well worth reading. For years I contemplated arranging his first-person texts in chronological order and I still think this would be worth doing. Many of his adventures are very good reading. The later Gould Handbook has a lot of the personal experience stripped out to save space, but it's still very useful.

Each plate's composition was sketched out by Gould himself; the finished drawings were drawn by first his wife, and by Edward Lear (yes, the limerick man - he was a fine artist). Mrs. Gould's skills increased greatly with practice, and during the Australian trip she drew many from life. After Mrs Lear's early death he had to use other artists, notably Richter, Hart and Joseph Wolf. The plates were coloured at the workshop of a professional colourist called Bayfield. In some cases layers of size were used to increase the gloss of plumage. But Gould remained in charge of the whole enterprise and made a respectable fortune out of it. (Most other artists who attempted to print and colour their own works to sell by subscription went broke in the process.)

Gould also dealt in skins and supplied the original bird collection for the National Museum of Victoria, which was directed by Professor McCoy. I wrote up their correspondence in a paper called "Birds, Books and Money" for the FNCV's 'Victorian Naturalist' (vol 118,5; October 2001).

It is indeed a shame when these remarkable volumes are broken up. They are certainly unwieldy and very heavy; you need a sloped desk to read them on comfortably. One nineteenth century owner complained that he needed to have a boy to carry them about for him. It has been claimed that a complete set of all Gould's volumes would weigh a ton... But whenever one has the chance to see the volumes as books, take it!

Anthea Fleming

Graeme Stevens wrote:
Yes indeed folks that was the original - it seems to have been a bit fractured on the way through birding-aus so my apologies. I can well understand the commercial value of the individual plates and only posted it for general interest. I am a very modest collector of bird literature and just felt it really sad that another set of the hand coloured seven volumes has been broken up in this way? Maybe it allows more individuals to own a piece of our ornithological history but somehow it verges on commercial vandalism to me. When you have an interest in the collectors of the day that worked for Gould and know his wife Elizabeth hand painted many of the lithographs it has a certain magic. (arch conservative? grumpy old bloke? not sure - just a personal sentiment - and I am sure it would be interesting to view the sale.) I have only once had the opportunity to browse the volumes at leisure - in the Melbourne Club library where they were out on the table for anyone to examine at leisure - special) All the best: Graeme > From:
 > To: ; 
 > Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2010 11:49:07 +1100
> Subject: RE: [Birding-Aus] John Gould`s Birds of Australia - Catalogue Now Online
> I thought the message you quoted was the original message about that topic.
 > Peter Shute
 > > -----Original Message-----
 > > From: 
 > >  On Behalf Of brian fleming
 > > Sent: Friday, 26 March 2010 9:42 AM
 > > To: 
 > > Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] John Gould`s Birds of Australia -
 > > Catalogue Now Online
 > >
 > > I didn't receive any Birding-aus message about John Gould
 > > catalogue - why?
 > > In fact I seem to miss quite a few messages and only learn of
 > > them via subsequent correspondence.
 > >
 > > Anthea Fleming
 > >
 > > Graeme Stevens wrote:
 > > >
 > > > I have no commercial interest - but wonder which of the remaining
 > > > volumes of this iconic work has been broken up
 > To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
 > send the message:
 > unsubscribe
 > (in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
 > to: 
 > ==========

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