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ORIGINAL HUMMINGBIRDS

John Gould (1804-1881). Originals from John Gould's printing of the "Book of Hummingbirds"  These are not facsimiles. 

Although he did not see his first live hummingbird until 1857, he had collected and stuffed nearly 300 species and put them on display in London as part of the Great Exhibition in 1851.  Having already started work on his Monograph of Humming-birds (1849-61), he charged admission to the exhibition, and displayed a visitor's guest book to gather potential subscribers.  Queen Victoria was among his enthusiastic admirers.At the Exhibition, Gould included a demonstration to show how his colorists could capture the iridescence of the hummingbirds' plumage with a special recipe of oil color and varnish over gold leaf.  This recipe was never duplicated in any reprints and must be seen in the original state to see how they marvelously capture the shimmering light.  They are, indeed, "flying jewels."

 

Print: 21½" x 14½"

pioneering research in Australia, before dying of childbirth after their sixth child.  Working side by side, John rough-sketched the positioning of the birds and plants, while Elizabeth drew from his stuffed models directly onto limestone for the lithographic printing method.  She also did watercolor paintings as guides for the colorists.Gould decided to be his own publisher and sell his work by subscription.  In this respect Gould showed great business acumen.  His subscription list was headed by King William IV and included various earls, dukes, and lords.  Throughout his long career, he always had a successful following of subscribers.Being of the the foremost bird printers of the 19th century Gould's style was different from other masters of the genre.  While other artists' illustrations are bold, striking, and dramatic, Gould's are quiet, formal, and lyricalIn all the world, hummingbirds only exist in the Americas, and Gould became fascinated by these tiny "flying jewels."  

The celebrated Victorian ornithologist liked simply to be called the "Bird Man."  His prolific works are his testament and his legacy.  John Gould's bird prints have been gracing elegant homes for more than 150 years.  Of his 77 years (1804-1881), 50 were spent in publishing.  The sum of Gould's achievements are staggering: 41 folio-sized volumes which include 2,999 hand-colored lithographs of birds from all over the globe: Great Britain, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Guinea, and the Americas.Early in his career, Gould became skilled in the art of taxidermy.  His artistic ability in mounting and displaying specimens proved to be the basis of his skill in planning and designing the plates for his future books.Gould was equally successful in his choice of wife.  For 12 years Elizabeth Coxen would be his devoted, talented, and industrious collaborator.  An accomplished artist, she completed 600 bird illustrations for eight books, and assisted his two-year