John Gould bird illustrations include the finest illustrations ever done of Australian birds. Starting in 1830 when he was twenty-six, for over fifty years Englishman John Gould (1804-1881) published fifteen superb works on the birds of the world, and became known as The Bird Man. In 1909 The Gould League of Bird Lovers in Australia was named in honour of the father of Australian birds John Gould and the mother of Australian birds, his artist wife Elizabeth Gould (1804-1841).
At fourteen, John Gould began work as an apprentice gardener with his father in the Windsor Royal Gardens. The British Museum’s zoology collection at Tring in Hertfordshire still contains magpies that were shot and stuffed by Gould during his first year. He showed entrepreneurial skill at a young age by selling stuffed birds to the sons of aristocracy at nearby Eton College. After gardening at Ripley Castle in Yorkshire, Gould opened business in London and became a successful taxidermist. He even stuffed birds for King George IV.
At the age of twenty-two Gould was appointed Curator Preserver of the new Museum of the Zoological Society in London. Inspired by a collection of Himalayan birds that was neither described nor illustrated, Gould enlisted Edward Lear (who had worked as an artist at the Zoological Society from the age of 16), to train Gould’s artist wife Elizabeth, in the art of lithography.
Gould had an excellent eye for scientific detail as well as colour. Aware of his limitations as an artist, Gould employed fine bird illustrators to produce 3,000 beautiful hand-coloured lithographic plates of birds from different families and different regions of the world. Elizabeth Gould lithographed over 600 plates, and drew sketches for hundreds more - until she died after the birth of their eighth child.
With great business acumen John Gould enlisted financial support from over 300 contemporary naturalists, museums in England and Europe, and British nobility, for his expeditions around the world and the grand publications of magnificent hand-coloured lithographs of birds.