This lively account of the life and work of John Gould,'The Bird Man; The Extraordinary Story of John Gould' by Isabella Tree, reveals a fascinating story of how John Gould, a self taught man of modest origins, became the most celebrated ornithologist of Victorian Britain, producing over forty folio volumes of scientifically revolutionary and aesthetically magnificent ornithological works containing more than 3,000 hand colored plates.
Tree vividly portrays Gould as a shrewd business man fiercely devoted to the pursuit of ornithological study and the financial success of his vast and celebrated publications. She sheds light on the inner workings of what she coins, ‘the Gould Machine’, Gould’s massively successful publishing ventures made up of illustrators, colorists and specimen collectors.
Tree suggests that Gould may have been a less than desirable colleague and employer as she recounts one example after the next of the many people employed by, yet not acknowledged by Gould - several of which, including his wife, Elizabeth Gould, who illustrated many of the plates in Gould’s works, lost their lives under his seemingly never tiring demands. She contrasts the romantic artist, Edward Lear, who illustrated many of the magnificent plates for ‘The Birds of Europe’ and ‘A Monograph of the Ramphastidae, or Family of Toucans’ with the pragmatic and rigid Gould who failed to acknowledge Lear’s artistic brilliance that transformed Gould’s somewhat stiff and rigid scientific depictions of birds into expressive work of art. Tree inserts an image of Lear's plate of the Culminated Toucan '(Ramphastos cumenatus), which we at Arader Galleries have in our outstanding collection of exceptionally fine lithographs from the works of John Gould, as an example of Lear's dynamic and expressive artistic abilities.
Tree devotes a large portion of the book to Gould’s travels in
‘The Birds of
We, at Arader Galleries are proud to have a complete set of John Gould’s monumental ‘Birds of
A letter accompanying our complete set, dated April 1877 and written by Henry Elliot, sheds 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
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.
Isabella Tree’s biography, ‘The Bird Man’, eloquently recounts the amazing and astonishing life and work of John Gould peppered with excerpts from Gould’s correspondences with such influential people such as Sir William Jardine, members of the Zoological Society, and Charles Darwin, who Gould aided in his theory of natural selection. I encourage all that are interested in learning more about one of the most influential pioneers of ornithological study and illustration, John Gould, to read Tree’s biography and to visit our gallery to view our impressive and complete set of Gould’s‘The Birds of Australia’ and our large selection of exquisite hand colored lithographs from many of his other monumental works such as‘The Birds of Europe’, ‘A Monograph on the Trochilidae’, ‘The Birds of Asia’, and ‘The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands’.