Sotheran’s Booksellers, who have a long association with Gould’s works, sent the Library a list of the uncoloured Australian bird plates they held. During the Covid lockdowns, we selected seven birds from the list, all of which can be found in South Australia, and perhaps even in your backyard.
You’d be very lucky if you saw penguins.
From nature, to stone, to paper.
The creative process involved sketching the birds, either from specimens or from drawings in the field, and then using the sketches for detailed illustrations. The process of lithography was used to print multiple copies of the illustrations onto paper.
Lithography is a technique where an image is applied to a smooth and flat surface. In this case special lithographic limestone was used with the drawings of the birds transferred to the stone.
Elizabeth Gould, an integral part of her husband John’s team, was a talented artist and lithographer.
The black and white lithographed prints were hand-painted by the colourists who referred to colour pattern plates as they worked. Many spares of the uncoloured black and white prints were kept, ending up at Sotheran’s Booksellers.
"At the time of Gould's death, his stock of unsold copies, unbound text and plates in various states, lithographic stones, drawings and paintings, amounted to nearly thirty tons.
The entire lot, along with Gould's copyright, was purchased by the London bookseller Henry Sotheran Ltd. It was put in storage for over 50 years until 1936, when ornithological book collector Ralph Ellis went to London and purchased a large part of the John Gould archives.
This collection was left to the University of Kansas upon Ellis's death, where it remains to this day."
~ John Gould: Books and Illustrations, Australian Museum
The purchase of the seven uncoloured plates was generously funded by the Friends of the State Library of South Australia.
If you'd like more to explore we have provided the following links to resources within the State Library of SA's catalogue and other libraries.
Image in banner: Fuscous Honeyeater. Ptilotis fuscus J. and E. Gould del. et lith. Plate number 44, volume IV, The birds of Australia, 1848. SLSA: 598.2994 d
Explore unique gifts featuring Australian bird illustrations from our collection.
Written by Sara Stodart, Published Collections Librarian