Gleanings of Natural History
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.
Wall Creeper or Spider Catcher (Tichodroma muraria): With detail of the crown of the head and a tail feather quill.
Wallcreeper of Suriname and Great Swallow-tailed butterfly of China.
Flycatcher: Golden-winged Flycatcher of Pennsylvania and a Tortoiseshell Butterfly of China.
Red breasted or Mustached Parakeet. Purchased by Edwards in London from an East India ship.
Alcids: Puffin (Coulternel) and Auk (Razorbil)l. Two species of the same characteristics as the Great Auk which was driven to extinction in 1844.
Marmoset: Common marmoset with snail and pink dog rose. Owned by the mid-wife Sidney Cannon who delivered George III. An avid collector of curiosities, much of her collection was bought by Horace Walpole.
Worm eating New World Warbler with a wood eating Capricorn Beetle.
Greater Cockroach brought by Catesby from the Carolinas and a Cricket from Barbary.
Brasilian Green Macaw. Pet of Lord Carpenter.
Toucan: Green billed Toucan from Cayenne, Guiana With life size detail of bill.
East Indian Ringed Parakeet and Blue-headed Parakeet.
Chatterer of Carolina: Pair with flowering conolvulus.
Wagtail: Yellow Water Wagtail perched on a stone from the Giant’s Causeway with two sides of a Walking Leaf insect.
Little Owl: Athena Noctua. Not native to Great Britain this Little Owl came down a chimney near the Tower and was kept as a pet.
Pennsylvanian Small Mud Tortoise
Yellow Winged Pye of Guiana with the Greater Locust.
Owl: Horned Owl from Athens.
Pye: Green Pye of Ceylon
Quail: Chinese Fighting Quail from Nanquin with a Guernsey Sand Lizard propagated in Surrey.
Female Rhinoceros and young elephant with tusks added by Edwards.
Toucan: Yellow throated Toucan from South America via Jamaica.
Golden Capped Parakeet of Brazil with a Green and Blue Parrot.
Variegated Jamaican Woodpecker