TAMWORTH orthopaedic surgeon Rob Sharp is making a generous public donation to Tamworth to pay tribute to the community support he’s received over the past five years.
Dr Sharp is a collector of plates from John Gould’s volumes on the birds of Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand, with much of the artwork adorning the walls of his office and surgery.
He fulfilled a dream when he was able to purchase five full volumes of John Gould’s works in The Birds of New Guinea And Adjacent Papuan Islands and is now donating the volumes to Tamworth Regional Gallery.
John Gould was the first Englishman to come to Australia and catalogue our birds. He did the same in New Guinea and New Zealand.
The New Guinea volumes were compiled between 1875 and 1888 (with the volumes completed after John Gould had died in 1881).
Dr Sharp said in England people paid for his pictures by subscription.
All the pictures were hand- drawn and then carefully hand-painted.
The five volumes of The Birds of New Guinea contain 360 plates and there were less than 200 Birds of New Guinea made. Dr Sharp said only the very wealthy could afford them back then.
“I have been collecting the plates,” he said.
“There are less than 75 of these volumes intact, because the rest have been broken up and the plates used as individual artworks.
“When this volume came up at Sotherbys in New York, Dr Sharp, through an agent, was able to bid on them and was the successful bidder paying $150,000 for the rare books.
“The fact they are 150 years old and still look vibrant and amazing is wonderful,” Dr Sharp said.
“These volumes are a record of birds that could have disappeared and it’s a way of saying ‘here’s a record of what life used to be like’. I just love the colours and vibrancy and I guess it’s also the appeal of nature.
“The volumes he bought were owned by a Gallipoli veteran, Bryan R Cooper, born June 17, 1884 and died July 5, 1930, who served in the 5th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers.
Dr Sharp said Mr Cooper’s estate was sold and the volumes went to a bookstore and the store sold them at auction.
“Now I’m donating them to the Tamworth Regional Gallery because they are so special everybody should share in them and this makes them available,” he said.
“I grew up in New Guinea, so the Birds of New Guinea had special meaning for me. I’ve been in Tamworth for five years and the community has been very open and supportive, so I wanted to give them to the community.
“I thought I could do something for Tamworth.”
Dr Sharp said he would leave it to gallery director Sandra McMahon to decide how and when to display them.
“I think they will be on display fairly regularly,” he said.
The Rotary Club of Tamworth First Light, of which Dr Sharp is a member, will hold a special viewing evening tonight at Tamworth Regional Gallery.
Bird lovers are invited along with other members of the public who want to look at these rare and special items.
The evening runs from 6pm to 8.30pm with admission $25 per person, which includes wine and cheese.
To attend the event, contact Philip Penman on 0407 662 438 or Narelle Langfield on 0403 622 587.