Lyre Bird. Menura superba

Lithograph of the best colonial image of the Lyre bird by the father of Australian ornithology, John Gould. Common name: Lyre BirdBinomial name: Menura novae hollandiaeFirst described Thomas Davies 1800Distribution VIC, NSW, QLD and introduced to Tasmania.References Readers Digest Book of Birds 1986 p … Read Full Description


S/N: GOULDAA-154–218129
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Full Title:

Lyre Bird. Menura superba




Repaired tear bottom left hand side, otherwise in good condition


Lithograph with original hand colouring.

Image Size: 

x 530mm
Lyre Bird. Menura superba - Antique Print from 1848

Genuine antique



Lithograph of the best colonial image of the Lyre bird by the father of Australian ornithology, John Gould.

Common name: Lyre Bird
Binomial name: Menura novae hollandiae
First described Thomas Davies 1800
Distribution VIC, NSW, QLD and introduced to Tasmania.
References Readers Digest Book of Birds 1986 p 360-361

From Gould’s, Birds of Australia and Adjacent Islands.

The Lyre Bird was first sighted November 1797 by a an ex-convict who lived with the Aborigines after his term had expired. It was first caught on 26th January 1798 and was described by Thomas Davies 4th November 1800 to the Linnean Society of London.

1797 First sighting. An ex-convict who lived with Aboriginals after his term expired in 1792, said that there was in the bush near Sydney, “a bird of the pheasant species’. Near Sydney, John Wilson (Barrington 1802)

1798 First recorded sighting We saw nothing strange except a few rock kangaroos with long black brush tails, and two pheasants which we could not get a shot at. Nepean, John Price (Historical Records NSW, 3 Appendix C.)

1798 First capture Here I shot a bird about the size of a Pheasant, but the tail of it very much resembles a Peacock, with large long feathers which are white, orange, and lead colour, and black at the ends; its body betwixt a brown and green, brown under his neck and black upon his head. Black legs and very long claws. Near Bargo, John Price (Historical Records NSW, 3 Appendix C.)

1798 Mimicry of the Lyrebird They sing for two hours in the morning, beginning from the time when they quit the valley, until they attain the summit of the hill; where they scrape together a small hillock, on which they stand, with their tail spread over them, imitating successively the note of every bird known in the country. South-west of Sydney David Collins (An account of the English Colony…)

1800 Scientific description The total length of this singular bird from the point of the bill to the end of the broad tail feathers is 43 inches; 25 of which are in the tail alone. The bill rather exceeds an inch in length, is strong, formed much like that of a peacock… Blackheath, Thomas Davies. (Transactions of the Linnean Society of London)

John Gould (1804 - 1881)

Gould was born in 1804, at Lyme Regis in Dorset. In 1818 his father was appointed a foreman gardener at the Royal Gardens, Windsor Castle. As a youth Gould also trained at these gardens and became an expert in taxidermy. In 1825 Gould moved to London and set himself up as a self-employed taxidermist. He was the first known taxidermist to have received royal patronage after preserving a Thick-kneed Bustard for King George IV. Numerous orders followed from the king with the most arduous task being stuffing the famous giraffe given by the Pasha of Egypt. He met and married Elizabeth Coxen in 1827. A talented artist in her own right, Elizabeth’s drawings and lithographic skills were fundamental to the success of John Gould’s renowned publications. In 1830, he obtained a number of specimens of the exotic and little-known birds of Northern India, forming the bold idea of issuing a book about them, which was rejected by the publishers. Gould was determined to issue the book himself at his own expense and so he arranged for his talented wife to draw and lithograph the plates form his own sketches. He persuaded N.A. Vigors to write the text for him and then set about getting subscribers for his publication. At this, he was spectacularly successful and this list was headed by Victoria (Queen from 1837) and Prince Albert, an emperor, a king, three princes and nine dukes. The resulting book, A Century of Birds… from the Himalaya Mountains, was published in 1832. This folio size (550mm x 380mm) was to become his format for all his great works. Encouraged by the response to his first book, Gould set about on a more ambitious project: an attempt to illustrate all of the birds of Europe. He engaged Edward Lear to share the job of illustrating the work with Elizabeth and between them they produced 449 plates for the Birds of Europe which was completed in 1837. This established Gould not only in the eyes of the public but also within the scientific community. He then sailed to Australia in May 1838 with his wife and eldest son, aged 7, a young nephew, a man-servant and a maid-servant, and his collector John Gilbert. He stayed in Australia for two years leaving from Sydney on 9 April 1840. On his return he took on his greatest work, The Birds of Australia begun in London on 1 December 1840. The final parts, making a total of thirty-six, appeared in 1848. They were bound in seven volumes and the cost to subscribers was £115. A supplement volume issued in parts was completed in 1869. The Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands, Gould’s last great work, was completed after his death by Richard Bowdler Sharpe. Gould prepared the first twelve of the 25 original parts of the work, while Sharpe, Gould’s protégé and devoted friend, was responsible for the remainder of the monograph. Sharpe was more than forty years junior to Gould, whom he had met when he was only fifteen, and they both shared a passionate interest in ornithology. In his last years, although an invalid and often in pain, Gould was always pleased when Sharpe visited him to look at his collection of skins and discuss the latest bird discoveries. No other ornithologist can claim to have discovered and illustrated faithfully so many species of birds. The Birds of New Guinea are a fitting tribute to a long and prolific life in the field or ornithology. They are a magnificent record of the exotic world that John Gould so dearly loved, not only for the scientific value but also for his love of nature.

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