GOULD, John. A Monograph of the Ramphastidæ, or family of toucans. Published by the author. 1854.
Imperial folio. Full green morocco by Shepherds, elaborate gilt borders to sides, spine divided into six compartments with gilt raised bands, tooling and lettering, gilt turn-ins, green silk endpapers, all edges gilt; pp. 9-26, 1 uncoloured plate, 51 later hand-coloured lithograph plates by Gould and H.C. Richter; fine.
Second edition, a revised version of the 1833-35 edition with new plates and discussions of species not formerly treated, including the uncoloured plate and accompanying text provided by Professor Richard Owen. The text and plates of the species newly discussed in this edition were issued in 1855 as a supplement to the first edition of 1833-35, which had been illustrated with 20 plates by Edward Lear. After the production of the first edition Gould was left with nine spare toucan plates that he initially intended to publish in the third part of Icones Avium (1837-8). However, the third part never appeared, publication of the work being halted by Gould's departure for Australia. By 1852 Gould had amassed further samples and new species; he was convinced that he had enough material to produce a new edition of the whole work. All of the plates were redrawn using the skills of his latest artistic collaborator, H.C. Richter, and the text rewritten.
The first edition was Gould's earliest monograph using the lithograph process and had been a huge success. His decision to concentrate on the exotic and previously poorly understood toucan family had won him as much critical acclaim as it had commercial success. It is a testament to his commercial nous that he realised a market existed for a revised book on these birds - he had 191 subscribers for this work, and about 250 copies were produced - but it is also an indication of his scientific seriousness that he felt impelled to clarify previous errors.
The toucans had proved a particularly awkward family to study, as with the scarcity of good specimens and the rapidity with which new species were being discovered it was often difficult to establish their taxonomy. Many species in the first edition are renamed in the second: for instance, the Banded Aracari became the Yellow-Billed Aracari, while Swainson's Toucan became the Tocard Toucan and four Aracaris were reclassified as Groove Bills. In the name of clearer and more accurate identification alone, the second edition was more than justified. Moreover, Gould discovered that the specimen of one of the toucans featured in the first edition, the Lemon-rumped Toucan, was actually the head of a Sulphur-and-White-breasted Toucan grafted on to the body of a Red-billed Toucan. Unsurprisingly, this bird does not feature in the second edition.
The plates, as ever with Gould, provide drama and colour. Revisiting the work allowed Gould and Richter to recast the drawings worked up by Lear twenty years earlier in their mature style, with more attention paid to habitats, foliage and foregrounds. Nevertheless, the wild variety of the toucans themselves is given the fullest and most fantastic rein. As Sitwell writes: '…the evil, as one is taught when young, are clothed in garish colours. The toucans, with their enormous beaks, have gone in for unimaginable transformations of their basic colours; their eyes, even, vary from bright blue to red. The beaks can be black, with an upper edge of pale straw yellow, or the beak is crimson red with a black dividing line. But sometimes the bill is green, olive green; or the lower bill, a bright blue with green shadings….' (Fine Bird Books, pp42-3). It is no surprise that these birds remain some of the most popular in Gould's work.
Fine Birds Books, p. 101; Zimmer, p. 259; Nissen 378; Wood, p. 365.