© Cleared / image missing


England 1770 – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1819

  • Australia from 1800

Blue face honeysucker. 27 February 1805
Collection Title: Lewin, John. 'Birds of New South Wales with their natural history'. Sydney: G. Howe, 1813
Page: Plate 15
Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: books, illustrated books, ink; paper etching, printed in black ink, from one copper plate; hand-coloured in watercolour Support: cream laid paper
Manufacturer's Mark: watermark near binding, image of fleur-de-lys; watermark centre of opposite page, image of shield / 'CA'.
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression as issued
Edition: print run unknown

Primary Insc: no inscriptions.
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions
Tertiary Insc: no inscriptions
Dimensions: printed image (irregular) 25.6 h x 21.2 w cm sheet 28.2 h x 21.6 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1996
Accession No: NGA 96.916.15
Subject: Australia, Animal: Bird Australia, Art period: Colonial, New South Wales Australia, Book arts: Illustrated book
  • A.S.Whymper, signature on free endpaper. Christie's catalogue (1996) suggests that this signature is that of Annette Whymper.
  • Annette Whymper
  • Annette Whymper was one of the eleven children of the English wood engraver Josiah Wood Whymper (1813-1903). The engravings for British Birds in their Haunts, 1862 after drawings by Joseph Wolf is considered his masterpiece. Among his other publications were the wood engravings for the Life and Habits of Wild Animals, 1873-74 produced with the help of his sons Charles, Frederick and Edward. Charles H. Whymper (1853-1941) provided illustrations for books on travel, sport and natural history. They include wood engravings for Yarrells History of British Birds, 1871-89 and the birds of Egypt in 1909. Edward J. Whymper (1840-1911), alpinist, illustrator and wood engraver, who engraved the illustrations for Howard Willoughby Australian pictures drawn with pen and pencil London 1886, married Edith Mary Lewin in 1906.
  • H.Bradley Martin
  • Henry Bradley Martin (1906-1988), born in New York, studied at Christ Church College, Oxford from 1924-29. During these years he began to form his extensive library which was particularly strong in ornithology and literature. Martin had the distinction of owning two copies of this book.
  • Library of H.Bradley Martin, Sotheby's, New York 7 June 1989, lot 145, US $360,000 (A$ 525,000)
  • John Elliott
  • John Elliott born 1941, company director, acquired a number of high priced books in the late 1980s.
  • Printed Books, Autograph Letters, Documents, Pop and Sport Memorabilia, Christie's, Melbourne 26 March 1996, lot 276 (est. $3000,000-500,000) $240,000 to Horden House.
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from Horden House, Sydney, 1996.

John Lewin, a natural history illustrator, arrived in New South Wales from England in 1801, the first professional artist to come to the new colony as a free settler. Richard Browne was also an artist, but arrived in the colony as a convict in 1811, completing his sentence in Newcastle in 1817. Their illustrations of the exotic bird life of Australia are today recognised as some of the most significant in colonial art.

Lewin’s Birds of New South Wales with their Natural History was the first non-Government book published in the colony. He finished the plates for the book between December 1804 and February 1805, and a small edition was published in England in 1807. The National Gallery of Australia’s copy is one of 13 books known to have been produced in the Sydney edition of 1813. Lewin’s distinctive style of closely cropped and often asymmetrical compositions, combined with his naively unscientific yet poetic texts, has ensured the book’s place in Australian visual history. It is not only one of the most important colonial publications, but also one of the most beautiful.

Anne McDonald1

1 Compiled from Roger Butler, ‘John Lewin: Birds of New South Wales with their Natural History (1813)’ in National Gallery of Australia: An introduction to the collection, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1998, p.2 and Andrew Sayers, Drawing in Australia: Drawings, water-colours, pastels and collages from the 1770s to the 1980s, Melbourne: Oxford University Press and National Gallery of Australia, 1989, p.28.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002