John Gould contributed sketches to the joint endeavor, but his true aptitude was as a producer: overseeing the production from beginning to end, identifying birds with rough drawings, conceptualizing and correcting the renderings, as well as paying for the publication. Although he created the mystique of an artist around himself, it was Elizabeth who had the talent. Together they made a tremendous team. He delivered her from a life of tedium, into a life of adventure and a fulfilling career. She provided John with the skill he needed to establish his reputation and supported the charade of his artistry with the statement “Drawn from Nature & on Stone by J. & E. Gould.”
During work on the next part of A Century of Birds, Elizabeth suffered from another difficult pregnancy and the death of her third child. Edward Lear, the nineteen-year-old bird artist, later famous for his nonsense verse, was working for the Zoological Society when John Gould approached him for temporary assistance. Under Lear’s influence, Elizabeth’s technique quickly advanced with added depth, motion, character, and improved composition. Soon after the publication of the Gould’s first ornithological images, she became internationally known for producing works of great beauty and accuracy, even receiving grudging words of admiration from John James Audubon.