A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Moutains
After receiving a large number of birds from the Himalayan Mountains, John Gould (1804-1881) was inspired to create his first collection: A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains. Lavishly printed with detailed illustrations, the work set the tone for Gould’s future collections.
Gould could describe a bird in incredibly accurate detail, but he was not a prolific artist himself. He lacked the artistic flair needed to portray it on paper. Therefor he provided rough pencil or watercolor sketches with notes for his wife Elizabeth Gould (1804-1841). She had more than enough talent to draw and transfer the final illustration to the large lithographic stones.
The birds, which were drawn from taxidermied specimens, are more artificially posed and lack the expression and movement of Elizabeth’s later work. She would further develop her style under the inspiring guidance of Edward Lear.
Edward Lear and the lithography
Lithography was becoming more common in Europe, but was relatively unheard in Britain in 1830. The technique of lithography allowed artists to draw directly with ink or crayon on the blocks of fine-grained limestone that served as printing plates. To produce an illustration was therefore faster, easier and much cheaper because the stone could be reused.
To learn the process, Elizabeth Gould enlisted the help of Gould’s friend and collaborator Edward Lear (1812-1888) who was the pioneering figure in British lithographic art at the time.
Printed in 20 monthly parts, the publication A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains was an instant success, allowing Gould to go on to produce his other famous works.
Taken from the original illustrations in the libraries of Teylers Museum in the Netherlands, the collection A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains contains 80 prints after the hand-colored originals.