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The Conjuror's bird and the NHM Library connection
The Conjuror's Bird (2005) written by Martin Davies is a novel set both in the 18th-century and the present day. The book was researched here at the NHM Library and mixes both fact and fiction.
It follows Joseph Banks and his un-named mistress, and the hunt for a missing bird specimen originally given to Banks.

The book refers to the NHM Library because the only remaining evidence for the lost bird, Turdus ulietensis or Bay Thrush, is a painting by (Johann) Georg Adam Forster (1754-1794) made during Captain James Cook's second voyage (1772-75). Georg accompanied his father (Johann) Reinhold Forster (1729–98) on the voyage as his assistant. His father was the Naturalist on board and Georg drew from his descriptions.

This painting is held in our Zoological collections (Forster plate no. 143/ original plate no. 146) and is available to view via the NHM Picture Library.

The novel refers to the modern-day characters coming to visit the Library in order to view the plate and look at some Banks biographies (page 75).
Davies also includes some notes about the actual painting and missing bird specimen on pages 307-308.

Angela Thresher, Information Assistant

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