Comprising some 2400 volumes in the fields of zoology and ornithology, it raised a premium-inclusive £1.72m when sold by Bonhams (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on May 30.
A collection of the great Gould works were included and all bar one of them found buyers, with a Birds of Australia set topping the price lists at £150,000.
However, it was the library’s set of The Birds of New Guinea and the adjacent Papuan Islands that set a record in selling at £82,000.
Gould died in 1881, before the work was finished, but Richard Bowdler Sharpe took over and publication was completed by 1888. The five handsomely bound volumes of this set contained a total of 320 coloured plates.
Yes to Aye-Aye
From the books dealing with mammals I have selected something much more modest in its ambition: Richard Owen’s 1863 Monograph of the Aye-Aye, which sold at £950.
Native to Madagascar, this curious-looking animal is the world’s largest nocturnal primate. It is one that taps on trees to find grubs and then gnaws holes in the wood using its forward slanting incisors.
Having created a small hole, it then inserts its narrow middle finger and pulls the grubs out.