Birds of Europe

You might know the English nonsense poet Edward Lear for his famous work about the owl and the pussycat, who went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat, but did you know that Lear drew owls, eagles and pelicans too?

As a young and nearly starving artist in the 1830s, Lear partnered with English naturalist John Gould to use the then-novel process of lithography printing to create colorful bird prints. Lear trained Gould’s wife, Elizabeth, in lithography as well, and in 1837, they published their most ambitious work up to that time: a five-volume set of ornithological descriptions containing 448 hand-colored lithograph plates depicting the creatures inhabiting Europe’s skies. Most were illustrated by Elizabeth, but the most dramatic, including the owls, were done by Lear.

Bucknell’s copy of Birds of Europe, a gift from Hollis Ross ’28, might have belonged to the most famous bird illustrator of all, John J. Audubon. The books’ green-leather front covers are engraved in gold “Audubon FRS” (possibly standing for Fellow, Royal Society).

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