Guest post by Ian Swirles, Special Collections Assistant.
My name is Ian and I am the Special Collections Assistant at the University of Leicester Library. I support the Archives & Special Collections team by getting books and archive material ready for visitors and groups to view in the Special Collections Reading Room. My role involves welcoming visitors and supervising the reading room, and answering enquiries relating to the collections including those relating to the Leicester Mercury Archive and Historical Directories.
I also research and prepare exhibitions using books from Special Collections which are displayed in the exhibition cases in the basement of the David Wilson Library.
The latest exhibition was an opportunity to display the fantastic artwork contained within five-volume set of The Birds of Great Britain by John Gould and volume II of The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, during the years 1832-1836.
These cropped images are taken from The Birds of Great Britain by John Gould and feature in the posters and banners for the exhibition.
About the exhibition
John Gould (1804-1881) was an English ornithologist whose scientific research and published works made a vital contribution to the study of birds (ornithology) in the 19th century. Gould’s published volumes contained illustrated plates produced by his wife, Elizabeth Gould, and several other artists.
This exhibition focuses on The Birds of Great Britain, which was published in 1873. The volumes have 367 separate plates which were produced by John and Elizabeth Gould, Joseph Wold, Henry Constantine Richter and William Mathew Hart. The process of lithographing required each illustration to be engraved on a stone, where copies could then be printed and hand coloured. The quality of these illustrations is remarkable, and each image stands alone as a work of art.
John Gould trained as a taxidermist at Windsor Castle where his father was foreman of the Castle gardeners. In 1827, Gould became taxidermist to the Zoological Society of London.
Following on from the success of The Birds of Britain (1873), Gould also published The Birds of Australia (7 vols. 600 plates) and The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands, including many new species recently discovered in Australia (5 vols. 300 plates).
John Gould published over 40 large folio volumes on natural history, that contained over 3000 hand coloured lithographic plates. Gould’s volumes are highly renowned and we are very privileged to be among a small number of libraries in the UK to hold his works.
Alongside The Birds of Great Britain are some additional images taken from The Zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, during the years 1832-1836 Vol II. Birds. We hold a facsimile reprint of the first edition which was published into multiple volumes between 1839-1843.
A selection of prints from the exhibition are featured below:
- Runs from 3 May 2022 to 23 September 2022
- Open every day from 9.30am-4.30pm (excluding public holidays and University closure days)
- Located in the David Wilson Library, basement. Entry to the Library is free but security controlled. Ask for admission to the Special Collections exhibition at reception.
- For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0116 252 2056.