'Birds of Australia' was published by English ornithologist John Gould between 1840 and 1848, with a supplement published between 1851 and 1869. The complete work consists of seven illustrated volumes and the supplement (8 volumes), published in a folio format that measures 57cm in height. The 600 illustrations are hand coloured lithographed plates by Elizabeth Gould (84), Henry Constantine Richter (595), Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1) and Edward Lear (1). The work was produced and published in London, however John and Elizabeth Gould visited Australia in 1838-1840 to conduct research towards the publication.

The plates were printed by the firm Hullmandel and Walton, and the hand colouring was completed by Gabriel Bayfield's studio. The accompanying letterpress descriptions of each bird are written by John Gould and were printed by the firm R. & J. E. Taylor. 'Birds of Australia' was originally issued in parts to subscribers - in all there were 250 subscribers, of which 175 of those sets are now accounted for in institutions. The remaining 75 sets are in private hands or have been broken up and sold as individual prints.

Physical Description

Hard-cover volume with green and gold morocco binding. Comprises 104 hand-coloured lithographic plates and 111 pages of letterpress, including the title page and list of illustrations.


This series was the first attempt at a comprehensive account of Australian birds with illustrations, and the publication doubled the number of birds described in Western science. Some 681 species were included, of which about 300 were described for the first time by Europeans. 'Birds of Australia' is often thought to be Gould's greatest achievement not only for its sheer magnitude but also for the beauty and accuracy of the hand coloured lithographs.

Museums Victoria Library holds two sets of Gould's 'Birds of Australia'. This volume, with brown and gold binding, is part of a set purchased in in the earliest days of the museum and annotated by the museum's curator William Blandowski. These volumes are presumed to have been purchased by Blandowski also, prior to the records being established. McCoy purchased parts 1-5 of supplement direct from John Gould from 1858-1869.

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