Hand-coloured lithograph of the Blue-headed Bird of Paradise, from John Gould's "Birds of New Guinea, and the Adjacent Papuan Islands" Part 111.
During the 19th century, John Gould (1804-81) brought to world attention the splendour of the planet's avian diversity. In an era infatuated with natural history, these gloriously modelled and coloured images satisfied the demands of passionate naturalists.
Gould was not a gifted draftsman, but he was a determined entrepreneur. He engaged a succession of superb illustrators to create 3000 sumptuous images of birds from Australasia, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Gould used print-making media for their ability to create multiple original impressions and the etchings is his publications demonstrated precision and delicacy of line. Applying colour remained the most time-consuming part of these processes, with images painstakingly hand-coloured either on the plate or on the print. For Gould, birds provided the most spectacular subjects.