News | May 21, 2014

Shapero Rare Books Offers Complete Set of Gould Bird Books for $2.5 Million

“All ornithologists are not artists. Many artists are not successful businessmen. In the field of natural history the accomplishments of this man in his 76 years of life from 1804 to 1881 are truly monumental. No other ornithologist has ever exceeded (or will ever exceed) the number of Gould’s bird discoveries and the magnitude and splendour of his folio publications” (Gordon Sauer, John Gould The Bird Man).

A complete set of John Gould’s magnificent and important bird books is a rare and exquisite collection that has not been offered privately for many years.  Described as ‘exceptional and pristine’, this collection of 12 folio works in 44 volumes containing over 3,000 fine hand coloured lithographs all in contemporary gilt bindings will be on display at Shapero Rare Books, 32 St George Street, London and exhibited at Masterpiece London from 26 June through 2 July 2014.

John Gould was not only one of the most distinguished ornithologists of the nineteenth century, he was also a brilliant artist and highly skilled publisher. Over a period of fifty years he brought these skills together; he dominated the field of ornithological discovery (including identifying Darwin’s finches), and produced folio works of unrivalled beauty and scholarship. Each work he conceived, researched (often by extensive travel in hazardous conditions) and wrote personally.  For the lithographic plates he composed the subjects, did rough drawings of great perception and personally supervised the completion of the plates and their full colouring by hand carried out by his wife and other artists - amongst whom was a young Edward Lear. And finally, having brought the work into being, he set up subscriptions, distributed and sold the copies to the most discriminating audience of the day - from royalty to the leading natural history institutions and scholars in Great Britain, Europe, America, and Australia.

These publications are amongst the most lavish and luxurious books of the nineteenth century. The sets were produced in limited editions at great expense. Each set or monograph would have been considered a great treasure of the library. To have a complete set, as assembled here, was — and is — an exceptional achievement.

Bernard Shapero of Shapero Rare Books says “We are really excited and proud to be able to offer this 'Opus Magnus' of the Ornithological World. I am unaware of such a set being offered privately for sale within the last 25 years. Therefore it represents an amazing opportunity for a collector to acquire a truly world class piece which is of such international historical importance.”

For further information and images contact:

Fiona Duff, Duff Publicity - 07710 419762 /

Margot Wilson, Industry Lane - 07788 421782/

Provenance: An English gentleman.

Description and Bibliographical references: 12 folio works in 44 volumes, complete with 3158 fine hand-coloured lithographs by Elizabeth Gould, William Hart, Edward Lear and Henry Constantine Richter. All first editions, except for one expanded second edition as stated, comprising: A Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains, 1832, 80 plates; The Birds of Europe, [1832-]1837, 5 vols, 448 plates; A Monograph of the Ramphastidae, or Family of Toucans, 1834, 33 plates; Icones avium, or figures and descriptions of new and interesting species of birds from various parts of the world, 1837-[1838], 18 plates; The Birds of Australia together with the Supplement, [1840-]1848-1869, 8 vols, 683 plates; A Monograph of the Odontophorinae, or Partridges of America, [1844-]1850, 32 plates; The Mammals of Australia, [1845-]1863, 3 volumes, 182 plates; A Monograph of the Trochilidae, or Family of Humming-Birds together with the Supplement, [1849-]1861-1887, 6 vols, 418 plates; Birds of Asia, 1850-1883, 7 vols, 530 plates; The Birds of Great Britain, [1862-]1873, 5 vols, 367 plates; A Monograph of the Trogonidae, or Family of Trogons, 1875, second edition, 47 plates; The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands, 1875-1888, 5 vols, 320 plates. All with fine contemporary bindings, most in full or half calf green morocco.  

Price:    £1,500,000  

Shapero Rare Books

Shapero Rare Books, founded in 1979, is a dealer in rare and antiquarian books and works on paper. This includes maps of historic importance, vintage photographs and decorative and artistic prints. Mr Bernard Shapero is a well-known and established international dealer in rare books and maps. He developed his expertise from an initial focus on travel and illustrated books into a broad spectrum of rare and collectible works.

The management of Shapero Rare Books has experience in acquiring large consignments of rare and historically important antiquarian books for sale to an international client base. The business has operated since 1996 from its current premises in St George Street, Mayfair, London.

Scholium Trading

Scholium Trading acquires and trades in the wider market for rare and collectible goods alongside other specialist dealers.

South Kensington Books and Ultimate Library

South Kensington Books is the current trading name of a bookshop that has been operating from leasehold premises in Thurloe Street, South Kensington, London for several decades and which specialises in books valued at up to £150 in visual arts, architecture and photography.

Ultimate Library, which operates from the same premises, creates bespoke libraries on behalf of luxury hotels and resorts, and high-end personal residences around the world.