BIRDS JOHN GOULD BIRDS OF NEW GUINEA

The Birds of New Guinea 1875-1888

ALL OUR JOHN GOULD LITHOGRAPHS THAT WE SELL FROM THE BIRDS OF NEW GUINEA ARE SOLD WITH THEIR ORIGINAL LETTERPRESS DESCRIPTIONS. THIS IS AN ADDED GUARANTEE THAT THE ACCOMPANIED LITHOGRAPH HAS ORIGINAL HAND COLOURING.

The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands, Gould’s last great work. With only about 250 sets made it is amongst the rarest of all Gould's works and was completed after his death by Richard Bowdler Sharpe, Gould’s protégé and devoted friend. Sharpe then in charge of the of the bird collection at the British Museum, assumed the authorship halfway through the series in 1881, after the twelfth part had been issued. Sharpe was more than forty years junior to Gould, whom he had meet when he was only fifteen, and they both shared a passionate interest in ornithology. In his last years, although an invalid and often in pain, Gould was always pleased when Sharpe visited him to look at his collection of skins and discuss the latest bird discoveries.

‘The halo of romance which for nearly a century has centred round New Guinea and its animals does not get dimmed as time speeds on, indeed it shines more brightly than ever’, wrote Sharpe in his introduction. The most remarkable species were the birds of paradise which had first become known to Europe in the C17th century when the Spanish ship Vittoria brought a gift of skins (minus their legs) to the king of Spain from a sultan of the Moluccas. Their feathers and plumes were so beautiful that the Spaniards said they must of come from paradise. The first description by a European naturalist of a bird of paradise’s display was by Alfred Russel Wallace, whose exploration of the Malay Archipelago (1854-1862) included stops in the western Papuan region. His discoveries and the rivalry between the Dutch, German and British colonial powers encouraged professional explorers and naturalists to penetrate the rainforests and moutains of the interior. New species of birds of paradise, cassowary, bower-birds pygmy parrots and paradise kingfishers were discovered.

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