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Claude Gibney Finch-Davies was born in Dehli, India on 24th May 1875. He became a highly accomplished painter and ornithologist and is regarded as one of the finest bird artists alongside John Gould, James John Audobon and William MacGillivray.



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In keeping with customs of the Victorian era, Claude was sent to school in England at the age of six. Here he would remain until he enlisted in the British army in 1893. Claude was posted to various remote places in the Southern Cape of South Africa and this is where his interest in natural history was ignited. He would spend a large amount of his free time hunting, collecting and drawing birds. Even during the South African War, he continued to observe birds, and later used this information to incorporate into his notes.


Claude soon gained a reputation for his ornithological knowledge and people would bring him specimens or reports of sightings. He began to build a professional network with local museums and libraries, particularly the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria. In 1907 Claude joined the South African Ornithologists’ Union and in the same year his first scientific paper was published in its journal.




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The photograph below displays his drawings in one of his field notebooks. He provided vast notes about each of his illustrations, making various observations and on some pages even adding a feather from the bird he is depicted to accompany his work. This particular notebook held in the NHM Library's zoology collection was never published. Claude did however provide illustrations for some major publications, for example, Boyd Robert Horsburgh’s Game Birds and Water Fowl of South Africa, 1912.



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During the summer of 1915 Claude was sent to Cape Town for medical attention. It is presumed that this is where he met his future wife Aileen Finch. Aileen’s father agreed this marriage could go ahead, on the condition that they kept the name Finch. The couple married on 4th August 1916. They went on to have three children together; William Simon Charles, Bethea Alice, and Hugh Claude.



In 1920 Claude's reputation was threatened when he was accused of stealing plates from books in the Transvaal Museum and the South African Museum in Cape Town. He admitted to this accusation and put it down to ‘collector’s madness’. Despite not being charged he handed over 29 of his beautiful sketchbooks as compensation. The shame and humiliation of these revelations was all too much and he died soon after.


Sarah Sworder

Reader Services Information Assistant


The Library catalogue is available online at Library Catalogue

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460


Anthropology / Palaeontology

Modern origins : a North African perspective / edited by Jean-Jacques Hublin, Shannon P. McPherron

Dordrecht ; New York : Springer, 2012

A 7 q HUB



Caves in context : the cultural significance of caves and rockshelters in Europe / edited by Knut Andreas Bergsvik and Robin Skeates

Oakville, CT : Oxbow Books, 2012

A 3 q BER



Neanderthals in Wales : Pontnewydd and the Elwy valley caves / edited by Stephen Aldhouse-Green, Rick Peterson and Elizabeth A. Walker

Oakville, CT : Oxbow Books, 2012

A 6 q ALD




Bildatlas der Moose Deutschlands. Fasc. 1, Grimmiaceae. Fasc. 1b, Sphagnaceae / Michael Lüth

Freiburg : Michael Lüth, 2011.




Bildatlas der Moose Deutschlands. Fasc. 7, Brachytheciaceae bis Sematophyllaceae / Michael Lüth

Freiburg : Michael Lüth, 2010.




Canyon Country wildflowers : a guide to common wildflowers, shrubs and trees / Damian Fagan

2nd ed.

Guilford, Conn. ; Helena, Mont : Falcon Press, 2012.

581.9(792) FAG



Sonoran Desert wildflowers : a guide to common plants / Richard Spellenberg 2nd ed.

Connecticut : Globe Pequot Pr 2012.

581.9(791) SPE



Die Farnpflanzen Südtirols / Reinhold Beck, Thomas Wilhalm

Bolzano, Italy : Naturmuseum Südtirol, 2010.

FERNS 582.35(436) BEC F



The dragonflies of Hong Kong / Tam Tze-wai ... [et al.], Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department = Xianggang qing ting / Yu nong zi ran hu li shu, Tan Zihui ... [deng].

Hong Kong : Friends of the Country Parks : Cosmos Books, 2011




Geheimnisvolle Pflanzengallen : ein Bestimmungsbuch für Pflanzen- und Insektenfreunde / Heiko Bellmann

Wiebelsheim : Quelle & Meyer, 2012

E 10C o BEL



Chiapas : estudios sobre su diveridad biológica / Fernando Álvarez (coordinator general)

México : UNAM, 2011

L 72H q ALV



Statistics in volcanology / edited by H.M. Mader ... [et al.]

London : Geological Society, 2006

M 551.21 MAD


Ornithology (Tring)

Atles dels ocells nidificants de Catalunya, 1999-2002 = Catalan breeding bird atlas, 1999-2002 / editat per Joan Estrada ... [et al.].

Barcelona : Lynx Edicions, 2004.




The complete illustrated encyclopedia of birds of the world : the ultimate reference source and identifier for 1600 birds, profiling habitat, plummage, nesting and food / David Alderton ; with illustrations by Peter Barrett.

London : Lorenz, 2012.




The Kirtland's warbler : the story of a bird's fight against extinction and the people who saved it / William Rapai.

Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c2012.




Macao Bird Report

[S.l., China] : Jinan Univerisity Press, 2012




Ornitologia italiana : identificazione, distribuzione, consistenza e movimenti degli uccelli italiani. Vol. 7, Paridae - Corvidae / Pierandrea Brichetti, Giancarlo Fracasso ; disegni di Silvia Gandini.

Bologna : Oasi A. Perdisa, 2003-

ORNITHOLOGY 72I BRI                        




The owl that fell from the sky : stories of a museum curator / Brian Gill.

Wellington, N.Z. : Awa Press, 2012.