John Gould was born in Lyme, England in 1804, the son of a gardener. With no formal education at the age of 14, he followed his father into the same trade. In his spare time, he learnt how to preserve and mount specimens and traded some of them with the scholars at nearby Eton College. After a short time as a gardener in Yorkshire he settled in London as a taxidermist. In 1827 he received a position at the Zoological Society as curator. His first book on the birds of the Himalayas was published in 1832 when he was just 26 years old. Gould employed the new technology of lithography, his wife Elizabeth being responsible for the lithographic illustrations and the drawings onto stone. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society and Vice President of the Zoological Society. ‘In the field of natural history, the accomplishments of John Gould in his 76 years of life from 1804 to 1881 are truly monumental. No other ornithologist has ever exceeded the number of Gould’s bird discoveries and the magnitude and splendour of his folio publications.’ (Sauer). The ‘Birds of Europe’ is the first of Gould’s works to feature plates by Edward Lear (1812-88) whose contribution included most of the large birds in the book. A total of sixty-eight plates bear his name. Hyman describes his plates as ‘certainly amongst the most remarkable bird drawings ever made, [for] it is evident that Lear endowed them with some measure of his own whimsy and intelligence, his energetic curiosity, his self-conscious clumsiness and his unselfconscious charm’. Anker (1979) 169; Ayer (1926) 251; ‘Fine Bird Books’ (1990); Hyman (1980); Nissen IVB (1976) 371; Sauer (1982) 2.