The Family of Hummingbirds: The Complete Prints of John Gould
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This sublime collection of 418 superbly detailed hand-colored lithographs of hummingbirds, created by John Gould, the “British Audubon,” in the mid-1800s, represents all the known species at that time and is the most complete ever produced of hummingbirds. Unlike John James Audubon, whose work focused on the avifauna of a single country, Gould’s folios illustrate species from around the world. His original set of folios—Family of Humming-Birds—reproduced here in its entirety, depicts the magnificent jewel-like birds together with botanicals native to their habitats in the most remote and exotic ecosystems of the Americas.
In her essay for the book, co-author Laura Oppenheimer tells the story of Gould’s colorful life and places his work in the context of a remarkable period when exploration and classification of the world’s natural wonders was at the forefront of scientific discovery and universally celebrated in Victorian popular culture. Joel Oppenheimer details how Gould created the prints and presents an overview of nineteenth-century printmaking and lithography techniques. He also unravels the mystery behind the gold-leaf process that Gould employed to portray the iridescent quality of the hummingbirds’ plumage, resolving a long-standing controversy regarding who should be credited for its invention. This Family of Hummingbirds will delight birdwatchers, fans of natural history art, and hummingbird lovers everywhere.