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Birds drawn for John Gould by Edward Lear, Folio Society

ELB_S_9Edward Lear had an eye for landscapes and an ear for rhyme, but it was neither as a travel painter nor as a poet that he first displayed his prolific talent. Between 1832 – when he was just 20 – and 1838, Lear created 80 bird portraits for the naturalist and entrepreneur John Gould.

For many, they are the world’s finestornithological illustrations.The plates were produced using the fledgling art of lithography and coloured by hand. They featured in Gould’s celebrated books, intermingled with the work of other, often less accomplished artists. David Attenborough first saw one of Lear’s plates in the 1950s, and was so struck by its precision and grace that he determined to collect them all. When the collection was complete, he had them encased in an original 19th-century leather binding. Now, to celebrate the bicentenary of Lear’s birth, Attenborough has kindly allowed The Folio Society to reproduce the entire volume in facsimile.

‘Lear’s bird plates, to my eyes at least, rank among the finest of their kind … to know that they will now be available to a broader audience, published together for the first time, is immensely rewarding. What’s more, the work undertaken by The Folio Society to reproduce not only the prints, but even an original 19th-century binding, has produced an edition worthy of this great artist. Bound in full leather, elaborately gold-blocked, it is a truly remarkable reproduction. There could hardly be a better celebration of Lear’s 200th anniversary.’ David Attenborough

A spectacular body of work: The majority of the plates are from The Birds of Europe, a vast publication issued in 22 parts between 1832 and 1837. The rest are from subsequent publications by Gould, including a volume devoted to the toucans.

Lear handled this wide range of species with astonishing skill. Whether painting the diminutive tengmalm’s owl, the exotic green araçari or the little egret with its long, elegant neck and delicate plumage, he approached each subject with superb attention to detail. Also remarkable was his ability to capture the idiosyncrasies of each bird, from the defiant tilt of an outsized beak to the solemn glare of a gleaming yellow eye.

In his introduction to this magnificent facsimile, David Attenborough explores the early development of Lear’s artistry, his partnership with Gould, and the innovation and flair that helped to make these bird prints exceptional. Attenborough’s knowledge and enthusiasm make this the perfect introductory text.

An ‘imperial Folio’ edition crafted in the image of the great 19th-century bird books: Meticulously reproducing Attenborough’s original 19th-century binding, this

edition captures the elegant aesthetic of the imposing bird books in which Lear’s work originally appeared. Each copy contains a limitation certificate, printed letterpress, and signed by David Attenborough.

Limited to just 780 copies, this is the only published edition to gather together all the prints that Lear created for John Gould. The Folio Society is thrilled to commemorate the bicentenary of Lear’s birth with the publication of this wonderful collection.

Production Features:

•Limited to 780 signed copies

•‘Imperial Folio’ format measures 21¼” x 14½”

•80 hand-coloured lithographs in high-quality reproduction and one additional drawing

•Introduction by David Attenborough

•Bound in full gold-blocked goatskin leather

•Gilded top edge. Printed on coated art paper

•Hand-marbled endpapers

•184 pages. Presented in a solander box along with a free print of the eagle owl

•Publication date: 22 November 2012.

About Folio Society

Folio Society limited editions are outstanding works of literary or historical significance reproduced as works of art in their own right. Many of our editions are facsimiles of treasures held in some of the world’s greatest libraries and museums. For others, we commission leading artists and craftsmen to create editions that represent the pinnacle of book publishing. All are designed to become keepsakes for future generations.


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