John Gould (1804 – 1881) was an English ornithologist. He published a number of monographs on birds, illustrated by plates produced by his wife, Elizabeth Gould, and several other artists, including Edward Lear, Henry Constantine Richter, Joseph Wolf and William Matthew Hart. He has been considered the father of bird study in Australia and the Gould League in Australia is named after him. His identification of the birds now nicknamed “Darwin’s finches” played a role in the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Gould’s work is referenced in Charles Darwin‘s book, On the Origin of Species. Gould became an expert in the art of taxidermy. In 1824 he set himself up in business in London as a taxidermist, and his skill helped him to become the first curator and preserver at the museum of the Zoological Society of London in 1827.
Gould’s position brought him into contact with the country’s leading naturalists. This meant that he was often the first to see new collections of birds given to the Zoological Society of London. In 1830 a collection of birds arrived from the Himalayas, many not previously described. Gould published these birds in A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains (1830–1832). The text was by Nicholas Aylward Vigors and the illustrations were drawn and lithographed by Gould’s wife Elizabeth Coxen Gould. Most of Gould’s work were rough sketches on paper from which other artists created the lithographic plates. This work was followed by four more in the next seven years, including Birds of Europe in five volumes. It was completed in 1837; Gould wrote the text, and his clerk, Edwin Prince, did the editing. The plates were drawn and lithographed by Elizabeth Coxen Gould. A few of the illustrations were made by Edward Lear as part of his Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae in 1832. Lear, however, was in financial difficulty, and he sold the entire set of lithographs to Gould. The books were published in a very large size, imperial folio, with magnificent coloured plates. Eventually 41 of these volumes were published, with about 3000 plates. They appeared in parts at £3 3s. a number, subscribed for in advance, and in spite of the heavy expense of preparing the plates, Gould succeeded in making his ventures pay, realising a fortune. This was a busy period for Gould who also published Icones Avium in two parts containing 18 leaves of bird studies on 54 cm plates as a supplement to his previous works.