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Book of the Week — Zoology of the Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle

owl from Zoology
“Don’t fancy I attempt dancing—no, no. I am well content to look on.” — Elizabeth Gould

The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle…
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1839-43
First edition

Zoology was first published as a five-volume unbound book in nineteen parts as they were edited and printed between February 1838 and October 1843. The parts were written by various authors, directed and edited by Charles Darwin. Darwin also contributed items about the habits and ranges in the Mammals and the Birds sections. The text of the Fish and the Reptiles sections include many notes by Darwin.

Part 3, “The Birds,” was written by John Gould (1804 – 1881). Gould was an English ornithologist whose lifework included forty-one lavishly illustrated volumes on birds from all over the world – three thousand plates, lithographed and hand-painted. Darwin turned to Gould for help in identifying bird species collected during the voyage of the Beagle. It was Gould who told Darwin that Galapagos finches were separate species, providing Darwin with essential information leading to his development of the theory of evolution.

Oh, those clever men. But, a picture is worth a thousand words. And it is Elizabeth Gould that John Gould turned to for the plates that accompany the bird section of Zoology, as well as his other works. Without credit, Gould’s wife, Elizabeth, produced fifty plates, from the initial sketches to the lithographs, for “The Birds” section of Zoology.

After Gould’s death, Edward Lear, who introduced Gould to the process of lithography and helped Elizabeth in her early efforts with the new printing method, wrote that John “owed everything to his excellent wife, and to myself, without whose help in drawing he had done nothing.”

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