GOULD, John. The Birds of Europe. London: by Richard and John E. Taylor, published by the Author 1832-37.
5 volumes, large folio (538 x 360 mm). 448 fine hand-colored lithographic plates, 68 by Edward Lear, the rest by Elizabeth Gould after her husband's sketches, printed by Charles Hullmandel. (Vol. I title with tear at gutter, vol. II with soft crease to list of subscribers; some occasional pale spotting, generally clean and fresh). 19th-century green morocco gilt extra, sides with wide gilt-roll borders, spine in seven compartments with six raised bands, gilt-lettered red morocco lettering-pieces in two, a repeating gilt pattern in the remaining, all edges gilt, by J. Wright (a few trifling scuffs, vol, 4 with a few pale stains on cover).
“AMONG THE MOST REMARKABLE BIRD DRAWINGS EVER MADE” (Susan Hyman on Edward Lear)
FIRST EDITION of Gould's first multi-volume ornithological work, the second of the folio series. As stated in the preface, “the Birds of Europe, in which we are, or ought to be, most interested, have not received that degree of attention which they naturally demand. The present work has been undertaken to supply that deficiency.” The drawings of continental species were taken from specimens in museums and zoos in Holland, Germany and Switzerland, which Gould had toured several times in the 1830's, at least once with Lear, who was the first and greatest of the fine series of artists that he was to employ over the ensuing half century. Lear's influence is evident in many of the plates. His understanding of the possibilities that lithography offered and his mastery of the techniques involved contributed much to the founding of Gould's reputation. "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" (Isabella Tree, The Ruling Passion of John Gould, p. 43). Susan Hyman, in her study of Edward Lear’s ornithological work, wrote: “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, Edward Lear’s Birds). Anker/Copenhagen 169; Ayer/Zimmer pp.251-252; Fine Bird Books p.77; Nissen IVB 371; Wood p.364.