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This exquisite lithograph is from John Gould’s A Monograph of the Ramphastidae, or Family of Toucans. This is from the second edition of the work which was published in London by Taylor & Francis for the Author between 1852 and 1854. The original plates were completed by Gould and H. C. Richter and printed by Hullmandel & Walton.
Many consider this work to contain the most stunning images Gould ever produced. The toucans are represented with true-to-life details. Rich, luminous colors and splendid composition combine to make the Toucans come to life on the page.
Gould was the foremost bird artist and publisher in Great Britain, publishing over 15 folio sets. He employed the best artists of his day to complete his works. A Monograph of the Ramphastidae features lithographs after Gould himself, H. C. Richter, and W. Hart.
The toucan family is limited to Mexico, Central and South America and some West Indian islands. The first time that any member of the family was described was by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes in his “de la natural hystoria de las Indias” (Toledo, 1526, chapter 42), in 1555 Pierre Belon included an illustration of its beak in his “L’Histoire de la nature des oyseaux” (Paris, 1555, p.184). Andre Thevet first used the name ‘Toucan’ with a long description, and a woodcut of a whole bird, in his “Singularitez de la France” (Paris, 1555, pp.88-90). The Latin name “Burhynchus” or “Ramphestes” (in reference to the size of the beak) was suggested by Conrad Gesner (“Icones Avium”, 1560, p.130), and Linnaeus later adopted Aldrovandus’ corrupted form of the latter (“Ramphastos”) which is how the family was still recognized at the time of the publication of the present image.