George Edwards

Gleanings of Natural History

1758-64

George Edwards was an early pioneer in British ornithology and animal illustration. His Gleanings of Natural History (1758 – 64) consist of a series of finely etched, hand-coloured plates executed and signed by Edwards himself. Many of the engravings are after drawings made by Edwards on his travels to Holland, Norway, Belguim and France (1716 – 31). Others are based on drawings executed whilst Edwards was Librarian to the Royal College of Physicians; here he was able to study and draw specimens of birds and animals from all parts of the world. Yet another source of specimens came from sailors who, returning from abroad, would bring home parrots and other tropical species. On hearing of their arrival, Edwards would dash off with his sketch pad to make ‘from life’ drawings.

Edwards’s illustrations combine careful draughtsmanship with a certain primitive charm which sets them apart from later more naturalistic ornithological studies. Many of the species engraved by Edwards had never before been recorded in the Western World.  Today, Edwards engravings are a delight to aesthete and ornithologist alike.