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.
Below are a few examples from this collection. Please click on an image to see it in high-resolution with details of the work itself. For the full list of original antique Edwards engravings available, please do contact us.
Greater Cockroach brought by Catesby from the Carolinas and a Cricket from Barbary.
Pye: Green Pye of Ceylon
Brasilian Green Macaw. Pet of Lord Carpenter.
Alcids: Puffin (Coulternel) and Auk (Razorbil)l. Two species of the same characteristics as the Great Auk which was driven to extinction in 1844.
Eurasian Kingfisher with a Blue Iguana of Nevis.
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.
Yellow Winged Pye of Guiana with the Greater Locust.
Flycatcher: Golden-winged Flycatcher of Pennsylvania and a Tortoiseshell Butterfly of China.
Common Marmoset with snail and pink dog rose. Owned by the mid-wife Sidney Cannon who delivered George III and was renowned as an avid collector of curiosities; much of her collection was bought by Horace Walpole.
Toucan: Yellow throated Toucan from South America via Jamaica.
Dodo with Guinea Pig: After the life painting by Jan Savery. Edwards elegant depiction of the rather dumpy Dodo, extinct by 1662, became the basis for subsequent illustrations including that in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Variegated Jamaican Woodpecker
Worm eating New World Warbler with a wood eating Capricorn Beetle.
Red breasted or Mustached Parakeet. Purchased by Edwards in London from an East India ship.
Toucan: Green billed Toucan from Cayenne, Guiana With life size detail of bill.
Wall Creeper or Spider Catcher (Tichodroma muraria): With detail of the crown of the head and a tail feather quill.
Golden Capped Parakeet of Brazil with a Green and Blue Parrot.
Owl: Horned Owl from Athens.
Female Rhinoceros and young elephant with tusks added by Edwards.
Hummingbirds and Dormouse: Red Breasted and Green Throated Hummingbirds of Surinam with an English Dormouse.
Quail: Chinese Fighting Quail from Nanquin with a Guernsey Sand Lizard propagated in Surrey.
Pennsylvanian Small Mud Tortoise