The Ruling Passion of John Gould: A Biography of the British Audubon

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9780802114631: The Ruling Passion of John Gould: A Biography of the British Audubon
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By the time he died in 1881, at the age of 78, British ornithologist Gould had produced over 40 lavishly illustrated books on birds, including some 3,000 lithographs whose accuracy and artistic value eclipsed those of his greatest rival, the American John James Audubon. His paradoxical and outrageous personality is chronicled in this biography. Includes samples of his work, a few (dazzling) in color. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Lively portrait of the ornithologist whose groundbreaking works of bird descriptions and taxonomy far exceeded in volume, if not in quality, those of his American rival, Audubon. When Darwin landed in England after the five-year voyage of the Beagle, he went to John Gould with his Gal pagos Island bird collection. Gould's identification of Darwin's new-found species catalyzed the theory of evolution and served as its foundation. Gould, however, was just finishing his 1832 Birds of Europe, with its trailblazing illustrations by Edward Lear (of nonsense-verse fame), and preparing to embark to the ornithologically uncharted colony of Australia, and so scarcely blinked at his friend's discoveries. Here, Tree (an editor at Britain's Geographical magazine) paints a colorful portrait of Gould and his times--the dawning of the Age of Science, in which England had an insatiable appetite for exotic species of flora and fauna; everyone with a piece of land was a gardener; monarchs vied with each other over exotic animals in their menageries; and the Royal Zoological Society was newly formed and financing collecting expeditions to the four corners of the earth. Gould, a gardener's son who learned taxidermy, came to naturalists' attention through his skillful stuffing of a giraffe--the first seen in England: The animal had been a special pet of King George IV. After educating himself in ornithology and marrying Elizabeth Coxen--an extraordinary partner who produced over 500 lithographs of birds (as well as eight children)--Gould embarked on classifying the birds of Australia, Asia, and Europe, and published monographs on toucans, hummingbirds, and partridges: Many of his books remain standard works. Tree's description of Gould's Australian expedition--the hazards and wonders of the bush (his longtime assistant was murdered by an aborigine spear)--is especially interesting. No birding enthusiast will want to be without a copy for his or her shelf. (Six color reproductions; 16 pages of b&w illustrations--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

A British counterpart of Audubon, though not an artist, John Gould (1803-1881) wrote and published some 40 magnificent illustrated works about birds. A working-class man who began his career as a taxidermist, Gould devoted his entire life and all his works to gaining acceptance from society and science. Freelance journalist Tree paints a brilliant portrait of a determined man so obsessed with his subject that he was willing to destroy others to achieve his goals. Gould worked his wife, an artist, to death and ignored his children; he appropriated Edward Lear's lithographs and failed to credit those who collected birds for him. Yet he remains a towering figure in ornithology. The last person in his field to combine the disciplines of art and science, he identified the Galapagos finches for Darwin as a single species. His books are collectors' items. Illustations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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