John Gould (1804-1881) was without question the most prolific and successful ornithological artist of the 19th century, and the only one to rival John James Audubon in ambition and quality. The 19th century was a time of intense fascination with discoveries in natural history, especially regarding knowledge of the wildlife of exotic lands. Gould shared the romantic enthusiasm of his time for such subjects, as well as the popular impulse to catalogue exotic wildlife. He combined his passion for natural history with outstanding scientific, artistic, and entrepreneurial talents. Drawing on these abilities, he embarked on a series of projects that would eventually make him the leading publisher of ornithological illustrations in Victorian Britain. Gould’s unparalleled career spanned five decades, during which he produced a monumental series of books of birds found throughout the world.
Considered one of Gould’s greatest achievements, the Birds of Asia was in production longer than any of his other works, taking 34 years for the appearance of its 35 parts. The ornithologist was fascinated by the diversity of the exotic, colorful species of Asia, and he conveyed his enchantment to viewers, creating one of his most monumental and magnificent sets. The subjects of the plates are among the most varied of Gould’s folios: trogons, kingfishers, sunbirds, woodpeckers, partridges, parrots, parakeets, pheasants, and many other genera are beautifully drawn, printed and colored. Gould placed many of the vibrant, showy and elegant birds in their appropriate settings.
Nissen IVB 368; Fine Bird Books, p. 102; Wood, p. 365; Zimmer, p. 258. (7)