On this page...

The 20th of 21 children, Edward Lear displayed artistic ability from a young age. By mid 1830 Lear was experimenting with lithography. Using his own initiative, when aged only 18, he started a large format book called Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae... (1832). It was drawn, lithographed, hand-coloured, and published by Lear himself in a limited edition. Due to financial difficulty, Lear reluctantly sold the whole of his stock to John Gould.

Illustrations of ornithology / by Sir William Jardine and Pridea
Cape Barren Goose drawn by Edward Lear Photographer: James King © Australian Museum Research Library Image: Leone Lemmer
© Research Library

At the age of 18, Lear then worked as a draughtsman for Gould, assisting on The Birds of Europe, and Monograph of the Ramphastidae.... While Lear's plates are still considered some of the finest ever published by Gould, he was better known for his limericks and nursery rhymes than his serious work as a naturalist and professional artist.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea,
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'