Lear’s Parrots & Gould’s Toucans – Two Works in One Volume with 92 Stunning Folio Lithographs


Product No. gould-lear-volume

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Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots & A monograph of the Ramphastidae, or family of Toucans

This volume features two of the most celebrated bird works bound together. It is the work of Edward Lear’s Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots and A monograph of the Ramphastidae, or family of Toucans. The works were published in London by Taylor and Francis for Gould and Lear in 1854. The work is bound in nineteenth-century red morocco gilt by Stamper, spine with raised bands in 7 compartments, gilt edges, marbled endpapers.

A monograph of the Ramphastidae, or family of Toucans is the second edition and features 51 originally hand-colored lithographs from John Gould and H. C. Richter. 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.

John Gould created nearly 3000 hand-colored plates of animals in his extensive career. Gould gained much of his knowledge by observation and experience and contributed greatly to scientific knowledge at the time. Gould is believed to have done the original sketches for all of the plates. He utilized many talented artists to help create the finished lithograph including his wife Elizabeth Coxen Gould, Edward Lear, Joseph Wolf, William Hart, and H. C. Richter. Even at the time of publication, Gould’s plates were very expensive and only sold to a small set of subscribers. Due to the limited subscriber list, the plates remain rare and of high value for collectors today.

Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots features 41 fantasic originally hand-colored lithographs by and after Edward Lear. This is the first edition of Lear’s rare first work. It was also the first English work dedicated to a single species of bird. Lear himself described his work as “one which led to all Mr. Gould’s improvements.” Only 175 copies of the work were ever printed, and he destroyed the stones to protect the subscriber’s investment in his work.

Lear started this work at the age of 18 and supervised the entire process. He drew many of his original sketches from the Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens. C. Hullmandel printed the plates. Christine Jackson described Lear’s exceptional process: Lear worked in great detail, outlining every feather and filling in the details with fine lines. This scientific accuracy extended to every part of the bird, from the beak to the claws. He noted on the plate the scale of the bird as shown in relation to its life-size, whenever he had reduced it… The colouring was done with opaque watercolours with touches of egg-white for parts of the feathers requiring sheen, and for the eye, to add that ‘life-touch.'” (Bird Illustrators: Some Artists in Early Lithography, London: 1975) The result combines “the most exacting scientific naturalism with a masterly sense of design and intuitive sympathy for animal intelligence.” (Susan Hyman, Edward Lear’s Birds, London: 1980)

“There is no doubt that Edward Lear was the first person to understand the art of lithography, and to use it to its fullest potential. It was a legacy that granted the fabled works of Gould their success, and took them into the forefront of nineteenth-century illustration” (Tree). Of Lear’s lithographs: “they are certainly among the most remarkable bird drawings ever made, … it is evident that Lear endowed them with some measure of his own whimsy and intelligence, his energetic curiosity, his self-conscious clumsiness and his unselfconscious charm.” (Hyman)

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