Tuesday, December 16, 2008

John Gould’s The Birds of Australia: A Copy Once Owned by the Governor of Tasmania, Captain John Franklin

John Gould (1804-1881)
The Birds of Australia (and Supplement)
Eight bound volumes including supplement
Folio size: 21 3/8” x 14 3/8”
Printed by Richard and John E. Taylor
Published by the Author, 1840-1848; 1851-1869
681 hand-colored lithograph plates

John Gould’s monumental Birds of Australia magnificently displays the author’s scientific skill and attention to detail and provides a more complete study than his Synopsis of the Birds of Australia and The Birds of Australia, and the Adjacent Islands. At its time of publication the birds of this region were essentially unknown to a European audience and as Gould himself admitted in the
preface to the book, “the field was comparatively a new one”.

In September 1838, the author and his wife, Elizabeth, arrived in Australia and spent the following 18 months exploring Tasmania and the adjacent islands, South Australia, and new South Wales. Upon the discovery that she was pregnant, Elizabeth Gould resolved to remain in Tasmania while her husband set about discovering the birds of Australia’s interior. She was to stay with the Governor of Van Diemen’s land (Tasmania), John Franklin, during this time and became fast friends with the Governor’s wife. Thus, it was that Captain Franklin became a subscriber to the Birds of Australia. An autographed letter, dated April 1877 and written by Henry Elliot, sheds additional light on the provenance of the present edition. He writes: “This copy of Gould’s Birds of Australia belonged to Sir John Franklin to whom I was aide de camp, and in whose house, while Governor of Tasmania, Gould lived many months while making his Collection. I had myself made a collection of the Birds of Tasmania, and gave many of the specimens to Gould. After the death of Sir J. Franklin’s widow in 1876 this copy of the work was given to me by his niece . . .” The letter is inserted into the first volume of the book and indeed, Gould acknowledges the assistance of both Elliot and Franklin in his preface.

The Birds of Australia is John Gould’s largest and most important work. Because he himself spent so much time in the field making his own observations, the text that accompanies the illustrations is by far the most accurate and detailed of all his works. Moreover, it is such a complete study that very few additions have ever been made to the study of Australian ornithology.

We are pleased to announce that this landmark work in ornithology is currently at the San Francisco location and available for viewing upon request. Please call Arader Galleries at 415.788.5115 for price inquiries and to request the catalog.

No comments: