Government impose export ban on £1.2million John Gould albums

Government impose export ban to stop £1.2million photo albums by famous English ornithologist John Gould from being sold to overseas buyers

  • The 129 images are at risk of leaving the country if a UK buyer is not found 
  • Album contains pictures of birds from around world, some of which are extinct
  • The export ban is to allow time for a UK institution or gallery to come forward 

A temporary export ban has been placed on two albums of drawings, watercolours and lithographs by 19th century ornithologist John Gould which have been valued at more than £1.2million.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the 129 images are at risk of leaving the country if a UK buyer is not found for the 19th century works.

The albums contain pictures of birds from around the world, some of which are now extinct.

They also hold images by his wife Elizabeth Gould and the artist Henry Constantine.

A temporary export ban has been placed on two albums of drawings, watercolours and lithographs by ornithologist John Gould which have been valued at more than £1.2million

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the 129 images are at risk of leaving the country if a UK buyer is not found for the 19th century works

The export ban, imposed by the DCMS, is to allow time for a UK institution or gallery to come forward and purchase the albums to prevent them being sold overseas.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said: ‘These exquisite drawings provide an important insight into the work of one of our most significant ornithologists, helping us to better understand 19th century study of natural history.

‘I sincerely hope that these beautiful works can be saved for the nation so they may continue to inform our knowledge and understanding of John Gould’s brilliant work.’

The export ban was placed on the object following advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.

Committee member Peter Barber said: ‘There is much still to be discovered, bibliographically, but particularly from the standpoint of the history of science, about these often beautiful but above all honest drawings, by one of this country’s greatest ever ornithologists and his talented wife.

‘The drawings sometimes differ in important details from the artistic lithographs derived from them, but they are perhaps most significant as being amongst the earliest accurate depictions of non-European birds, some now extinct. 

The albums contains pictures of birds from around the world, some of which are now extinct. The albums also contain images by his wife Elizabeth Gould and the artist Henry Constantine

The export ban, imposed by the DCMS, is to allow time for a UK institution or gallery to come forward and purchase the albums to prevent them being sold overseas

‘They should be retained in this country so that they can be researched not only from an artistic and bibliographical perspective but above all in the context of Gould’s correspondence and the specimens, also gathered by John Gould, held by British institutions.’

A decision on whether the albums can be exported has been deferred until September 24. 

However, this may be extended until January 24 if a party has a serious intention to raise the funds to buy it for the recommended price of £1,287,500.

John Gould: The ornithologist who inspired Charles Darwin to come up with his Theory of Evolution 

Born in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast in 1804, John Gould was brought up in Surrey and later Windsor, where his father was a gardener at the monarch’s castle.

Gould taught himself taxidermy – the practice of preserving an animal’s body by stuffing or mounting – from an early age. 

In 1824, he moved to London to establish a shop in the city, after a brief stint as a gardener.

His taxidermy enterprise proved successful and his clients included King George IV, for whom he stuffed a pet giraffe in 1826.

In 1828, Gould won a competition to become a taxidermist at the Zoological Society’s museum in London.

He eventually became the institution’s curator and developed connections with some of the most prominent naturalists of the time, including Charles Darwin.

Born in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast in 1804, John Gould was brought up in Surrey and later Windsor, where his father was a gardener at the monarch’s castle

In 1836, he assisted the famous scientist in understanding the specimens he had collected from the Beagle voyage to the Galapagos.

He demonstrated to Darwin that the birds he had collected were not different species but varieties of the same species.  

This inspired Darwin’s revolutionary theory of natural selection.

 In 1838, Gould quit his job with the Zoological Society and moved with his family to Australia so he could collect specimens of Australian wildlife in person.

There he made sketches and collected many different species of birdlife and mammals.

On returning to the UK in 1840, Gould settled in Surrey and set about publishing the work he had collated. 

Even though he then lost his wife from an illness following childbirth, Gould published The Birds of Australia in seven folio volumes between 1840 and 1848.

The landmark work illustrated a variety of the wildlife of the Australian outback, including kangaroos, wallabies and koalas. 

Gould passed away aged 76 in 1881.  

Source: The Royal Collection Trust.   

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