First edition. Gould’s interest in Australia was piqued by specimens sent back by his wife’s brothers who had settled there. He soon realized that ‘the “natural productions” of the country were untapped’ (ODNB) and set out there in 1838, spending 18 months in the country. ‘It was not until I arrived in Australia, and found myself surrounded by objects as strange as if I had been transported to another planet, that I conceived the idea of devoting a portion of my attention to the mammalian class of its extraordinary fauna’ (Preface). In his Analytical Index to Gould’s works, his long-time assistant, R. Bowdler Sharpe described The Mammals as ‘One of the most important works ever attempted by Gould.’ He had known ‘that this work was never going to be remunerative on the same scale as his ornithological ones, but his motive was purely as a contribution to science – for which, on reflection, he thought he might have deserved more praise.’
The Mammals was issued, as with all Gould’s great natural history monographs, in parts. The first appeared on 1 May 1845 and the final 13th part on 1 May 1863. Each of the first 12 included 15 plates, a cleverly balanced mixture of the exciting with the more prosaic, each of them accompanied by descriptive text, the final part was made up of just two plates, but provided the preliminary titles, text and indices.
As with all of Gould’s publications the completed work is a sumptuous production, which contributed much to the history, documentation and illustration of Australia’s numerous unique species, all too many of which are now sadly extinct.
3 vols, folio (55 × 37 cm). 182 fine hand-coloured lithographic plates, most heightened with gum-arabic, by Gould and Henry Constantine Richter, printed by Hullmandel & Walton; very occasional light spotting to the text leaves. Particularly fine contemporary green levant morocco on matching pebble-grained boards by [John] Ramage (discreet stamp to front pastedown), boards with triple rolled borders, single border to pastedowns, spines richly gilt in seven compartments with raised bands, second and fourth compartment titled in gilt, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers. An extremely handsome copy.
Sir Jonathan Edmund Backhouse (bookplate to front pastedowns); Kemerton Court (bookplate to front free endpaper); R.D. Jackson (bookplate to front pastedown).
BM(NH) II, p.701; Nissen (ZBI), 1661 & 1662; Sauer, 11 & 14; Wood, p.365.
Stock ID: 98221