The Society holds several original editions of John and Elizabeth Gould's work.
John Gould was born in 1804 in rural England, the son of a gardener. As a young boy he earned pocket money by collecting and selling birds' eggs and stuffed birds having taught himself the art of taxidermy. He established such a reputation as a taxidermist that he obtained a position at the Zoological Society, London. Here he was able to meet many wealthy and influential people interested in the sciences. This helped him advance his career.
It was the artistic skill and devotion of his wife Elizabeth Gould (1804-1841) that enabled him to establish himself publishing high quality coloured plates of birds and animals. She did all the artwork and lithography for his early publications as well as bearing eight children. She died, aged 37, on15th August 1841 shortly after their return from Australia.
In the publishing process John Gould provided sketches of the birds for his artists to follow but did not do any of the finished artwork himself. He was the ornithologist, entrepreneur, business manager and collector of bird specimens and supervisor of the work. The work itself would not have been possible without Elizabeth and the help of his devoted secretary Edwin Prince. In each publication a detailed description - or letterpress - of the bird follows each plate. These were written by John Gould himself and are extremely detailed. The artwork and lithographic drawing on stone was carried out in Gould's terrace house in central London and the printing mainly done by C. Hullmandel. The hand colouring for the larger publications was done by a colourist, Gabriel Bayfield, who "farmed them out" to other colourists who often worked at home.
Over a career of some fifty years John Gould (1804-1881) published nearly 3000 bird and animal plates mostly in imperial folio size (559mm x 406mm) which were issued to subscribers in parts making up nineteen volumes in total. He also published over 300 scientific papers. His work covered every continent except Africa. He established such a reputation that he was generally accepted as the pre-eminent ornithologist of his era.