8 volumes. Folio (22 4/8 x 14 4/8 inches). 681 hand-colored lithographs, including three double-page, after John and Elizabeth Gould and H.C. Richter (intermittently and occasionally heavily spotted throughout volumes I-VII. Contemporary green morocco gilt, all edges gilt, by Bicker & Son; "Supplement" in half green morocco to style, original wrappers bound in at the end.
Provenance: From the library of Sir John Franklin (1786-1847), FRGS, British Royal Naval Officer, Arctic Explorer, and Governor of Tasmania (1836-1843); gifted to Henry Elliot, Franklin's aide-de-camp; the bookplate of the University of Michigan on the front paste-down of each volume and their ink library stamps on the recto of the first blank, and the foot of the dedication leaf in volume I and the foot of the contents leaf in all other volumes; the bookplate of Albert May Todd (1850-1931) known as "the peppermint king" on the front paste-down of each volume; George M. Pflaumer, American bibliophile, his sale Sotheby's New York, June 3, 1997, lot 92.
First editions. ORIGINAL SUBSCRIBER SIR JOHN FRANKLIN'S COPY.
Gould collected the material for his magnum opus "The Birds of Australia" on journeys through Australia in 1838-1840: "I was naturally desirous of turning my attention to the Ornithology of some other region; and a variety of opportune and concurring circumstances induced me to select that of Australia, the birds of which, although invested with the highest degree of interest, had been almost entirely neglected… In the absence, then, of any general work on the Birds of Australia, the field was comparatively a new one, and of no ordinary degree of interest, from the circumstance of its being one of the finest possessions of the British Crown, and from its natural productions being as remarkable for the anomalous nature of their forms, as for their beauty, and the singularity of their habits." (Gould "Preface" to his "introduction to the Birds of Australia").
Arguably John Gould's largest and most important work, in part due to the time Gould spent in the field making his own observations: the text that accompanies the illustrations is by far the most accurate and detailed of all his works. In September 1838, the author and his artist wife, Elizabeth, arrived in Australia and spent the following eighteen months exploring Tasmania and the adjacent islands, South Australia, and new South Wales. Upon the discovery that she was pregnant, Elizabeth Gould resolved to remain in Tasmania while her husband set about discovering the birds of Australia's interior. She was to stay with the Governor of Van Diemen's land (Tasmania), John Franklin, during this time and became fast friends with the Governor's wife Jane, who had a reputation among the locals for being an unusually forthright and intrepid individual. She and her husband went on frequent expeditions by themselves, often 'roughing it', and on one occasion managed to get themselves lost. She helped to found the local University, Museum and Botanical Gardens. It is therefore not surprising that Captain Franklin should become a subscriber to the "Birds of Australia".
With an AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED BY HENRY ELLIOT, FRANKLIN'S AIDE-DE-CAMP, dated April 1877, inserted in the first volume: "This copy of Gould's Birds of Australia belonged to Sir John Franklin to whom I was aide de camp, and in whose house, while Governor of Tasmania, Gould lived many months while making his collection. I had myself made a collection of the Birds of Tasmania, and gave many of the specimens to Gould. After the death of Sir J. Franklin's widow in 1876 this copy of the work was given to me by his niece . . ." Gould acknowledges the assistance of both Elliot and Franklin in his "Preface" to "The Birds of Australia". AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE SET WITH A DISTINGUISHED PROVENANCE. Anker 174, 179; "Fine Bird Books" p. 78; Nissen 370; Sauer 9, 18; Zimmer pp. 225-259. Catalogued by Kate Hunter