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'Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots : the greater part of them species hitherto unfigured' by Edward Lear.


One of the most requested must see books in the Rothschild Library is a work without text produced by a short-sighted, socially inept, depressive artist with failing health.  Someone we may know better as an author of nonsense poetry and a caricaturist. 


This month sees the bicentenary of the birth of Edward Lear so it seems appropriate to highlight his major work of natural history, the ‘Illustrations of the family Psittacidae or parrots’.


Lear was born 12th May 1812, the 20th child of 21 children, born to a prosperous family in London.  It appears that there was some sort of hiatus and the family became divided, although no details remain due to Lear destroying diaries from his youth and spreading stories of bankruptcy that cannot be substantiated!



Blue and yellow Macaw

Image reference: 008408


However, the young Edward Lear was cared for by his sister Ann, 22 years his senior, during his childhood and teenage years.  He spent only one year at school, and either taught himself or was taught by his sisters Ann and Sarah.  Both women were gifted artists so he learned to draw using objects from nature for his artwork.


From approximately 1828 he began to work as a zoological draughtsman, quite often on projects associated with the new zoological gardens in London.  In 1830 he conceived his plan to produce a great work of zoological illustration and applied to the zoo for permission to draw the parrots. Permission was granted and Lear used to work in the aviaries with the keeper, Gosse, holding the parrots while Lear measured and drew his subjects. 


He made many pencil sketches and notes on colours, drawing the parrots in many positions. Visitors began to notice him working and he was constantly irritated by them, occasionally drawing a caricature of the most annoying. The intention of the work was to draw the entire family of psittacidae which meant having to use parrots in private collections, such as those of Lord Stanley of Knowsley hall, and if all else failed using stuffed specimens supplied by John Gould (1804-1881), who worked at the Zoological Gardens as a taxidermist.


The first part of the work appeared in 1830 and was remarkeble for several reasons:


  • Large folio size - which became the norm afterwards
  • Working from living birds - stuffed specimens were the usual subjects
  • Lear produced his own lithographs - he worked closely with Hullmandell, one of the lithographic pioneers
  • The work was devoted to one Family of birds - rather than the wide ranging works of earlier authors


The intention was to produce 14 parts but eventually 42 plates were produced in 12 parts.  The whole family of psittacidae was not figured as the book was not a financial success even though it had some eminent subscribers.

New Image.JPG

Subscribers page


The book was an artistic and natural history success.  The day after publication of the first part, Lear was proposed as an Associate of the Linnean Society, he was just eighteen years old. One of his supporters was Thomas Bell (1792-1880) for whom he worked on the 'Monograph of the Testudinata' and 'A history of British Quadrupeds, including Cetacea'.


He also worked for John Gould, the producer of many folio works on birds.  Gould was an unscrupulous and ambitious businessman who used Lear to produce some fine plates but often did not acknowledge him as the artist.  Their best known collaboration being the 'Birds of Europe' for which Lear produced plates of the large and eccentric birds, probably best known for the owls.





Aegolius funereus, Tengmalm's owl

Image reference: 028000


Lear spent the happiest five years of his life at Knowsley Hall where he was working for Lord Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby (1775-1851).  Stanley was undertaking academic study of natural history and had amassed the largest private menagerie in the country.  He employed Lear to draw the animals for identification and classification purposes. Lear lived at Knowsley Hall and in the evening entertained the children with drawings and stories.  He was accepted in to family life and made many friends.

In 1837 Lear went to Rome.  His failing health and eyesight and tours to the Lake District and Ireland influenced his desire to take up landscape painting.  He was an intrpid traveller and wrote journals about his travels to such places as Greece, Albania, Italy and Corsica.  He lived near Rome for most of the rest of his life, and when he finally became too ill to work, he sank into depression, a feature of his earlier life.  He died on 19th January 1888 in Sanremo, Liguria, Italy.


As this is Lear's bicentenary there are many events taking place, for more information please see  Also you will find some of his works digitised on the Biodiversity Heritage Library



Written by Alison Harding, Librarian (Tring)


For more information about the Library & Archives please visit visit our


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





The behavior guide to African mammals :|bincluding hoofed mammals, carnivores, primates / Richard Despard Estes ; drawings by Daniel Otte ; foreword by E. O. Wilson.
Berkeley, Calif. London :University of California Press, 2012


Catalogue of Brazilian Porifera / Guilherme Muricy ... [et. al.]
Rio de Janeiro : Museu Nacional, 2011


Snakes of Western Queensland : a field guide / by Angus Emmott and Steve G. Wilson
Wilsonton : Desert Channels Queensland, 2009


Frogs of the Lake Eyre Basin : a field guide / Michael J. Tyler, Steve G. Wilson and Angus Emmott
Longreach : Desert Channels Queensland, 2011


Desert animals in the eastern Sahara : status, economic significance, and cultural reflection in antiquity ; proceedings of an interdisciplinary ACACIA workshop held at the University of Cologne, December 14-15, 2007 / edited by Heiko Riemer ... [et al.]
Köln : Heinrich-Barth-Institut, 2009.
Z 74A o DES


Animals in the blood : the Ken Smith story / Russell Tofts
Whittlesford : Bartlett Society, 2012
Z 96A o SMI


Snakes of China (Zhongguo she lei) / Zhao Ermi zhu
Hefei Shi : Anhui ke xue ji shu chu ban she, 2006
Z REPTILES 77 ZHA Vol.1 & 2




Blogging for nature / Mark Avery
[S.l. : Lulu Press], 2011
L 65B o AVE


Aquatic biodiversity in Northern Australia : patterns, threats and future / editor, B.J. Pusey
Darwin, N.T. : Charles Darwin University Press (CDU Press), 2011
L 10E q PUS


The European Antarctic: science and strategy in Scandinavia and the British Empire / Peder Roberts
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
L 80 o EUR


The optics of life : a biologist's guide to light in nature / Sönke Johnsen
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 2012
L 10 o JOH


Darwin's ghosts : in search of the first evolutionists / by Rebecca Stott
London : Bloomsbury, 2012
L 9B o STO





The mayflies of Europe (Ephemeroptera) / Ernst Bauernfeind & Tomáš Soldán
Ollerup : Apollo Books, 2012


Entomologiens historie i Norge : Norsk entomologisk forening 1904-2004 / Lauritz Sømme ; bilderedaktør Lars Ove Hansen
Oslo : Norsk entomologisk forening, 2004
E 3 o SOM


The insects of Borneo : including South-East and East Asia / Dennis S. Hill and Fatimah Abang
Kota Samarahan : Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 2010
E 77A o HIL


The Carabus of Abkhazia, Caucasus (Coleoptera, Carabidae) : iconography, genital morphology, systematics, and faunistics / by Imre Retezár.
[Hungary] : I. Retezár, 2008


Fotoatlas der Zikaden Deutschlands = Photographic atlas of the planthoppers and leafhoppers of Germany / Gernot Kunz, Herbert Nickel, Rolf Niedringhaus
Scheessel : WABV Fründ, 2011


Agrilus of East Asia / Eduard Jendek, Vasily Grebennikov
Prague : Nakladatelství Jan Farka*c, 2011





Death of an ocean : a geological borders ballad / Euan Clarkson and Brian Upton
Edinburgh : Dunedin Academic Press, 2010
P 72Ab o CLA


Curiosités géologiques du Pays Bigouden / Sylvain Blais, Michel Ballèvre, Pierrick Graviou, Joël
Orléans : BRGM, 2011
P 72G o GRA


Curiosités géologiques du Trégor et du Goëlo / Pierrick Graviou ; Christophe Noblet
Orléans : BRGM editions, 2009
P 72G o GRA


Curiosités géologiques de Mayotte / Pierrick Graviou, Jean-Philippe Rançon avec la collaboration de Nicolas Hubert.
Mamoudzou, Mayotte : Editions du Baobab ; Orléans, France : BRGM Éditions, c2006
P 72G o GRA




Rock-forming minerals. Volume 5A, Non-silicates: oxides, hydroxides and sulphides / J.F.W. Bowles ... [et al.].
London : Geological Society, 2011
M 549(02) BOW


Biohydrometallurgical processes : a practical approach / [editors] Luis Gonzaga Santos Sobral, Débora Monteiro de Oliveira, Carlos Eduardo Gomes de Souza.
Rio de Janeiro : Centre for mineral technology, Ministry of science, technology and innovation, 2011
M 669 SOB



Ornithology (Tring)


Gyrfalcons and ptarmigan in a changing world : Proceedings of a conference held February 2001, Boise, Idaho / Richard T. Watson et al.
Boise, Idaho : Peregrine Fund, 2011


Gyrfalcons and ptarmigan in a changing world : Proceedings of a conference held February 2001, Boise, Idaho / Richard T. Watson et al.
Boise, Idaho : Peregrine Fund, 2011


Nicaragua Pacific Slope Birds / Robert Dean
Rainforest Publications, 2011


La alondra ricotí ("Chersophilus duponti") / por Francisco Suárez (editor).
[Dupont’s Lark]
Madrid : Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales, 2010.


Las alondras de España peninsular / Francisco Suárez, Israel Hervás y Jesús Herranz.
[The larks of peninsular Spain]
Madrid : Organismo Autónomo de Parques Nacionales, 2009.


A book of birds / Stephen Gill
Kanagawa, Japan : Super Labo, 2010.


The great penguin rescue : 40,000 penguins, a devastating oil spill, and the inspiring story of the world's largest animal rescue / Dyan deNapoli.
New York : Free Press, 2010.


Seabird genius : the story of L.E. Richdale, the royal albatross, and the yellow-eyed penguin / Neville Peat ; foreword by C.J.R. Robertson.
Dunedin, N.Z. : Otago University Press, 2011.


Systematics, morphology, and ecology of pigeons and doves (Aves; Columbidae) of the Mascarene Islands, with three new species. / Julian Pender Hume
Auckland, New Zealand : Magnolia Press, 2011.


Vivre avec l'aigle de Bonelli [Texte imprimé] / Rozen Morvan ; photographies de Frédéric Larrey et Thomas Roger.
[Saint-Claude-de-Diray] : Éd. Hesse, 2010.
ORNITHOLOGY 18(1F) MOR                    


Lisa Di Tommaso (Special Collections Librarian) showcased some of the Library's fantastic art collection, as part of the highly successful NHM Night Safari evening.


Come along at 14.30 to the Attenborough Studio and join Daisy Cunynghame (Assistant Records Manager, Library & Archives) as she talks about a fascinating slice of Museum history.


The Museum has survived two world wars, the Blitz and the rise of nuclear weapons. It has not always escape unscathed, as the pockmarks of bomb damage covering the side entrance show, but it has always been prepared. Join her as she delves into the Museum's Archives to discover the extreme lengths that scientists and staff went to in order to protect the collections during World War II. Find out about the initial planning, mobilisation and the evacuation of specimens, hear tales of espionage and reveal the scientific work carried out by the Museum to aid the war effort.


This event is FREE!


Archive Guide-001-28072011.jpg


Join Jill Darrell (Palaeontology Department) and Hellen Sharman (Library & Archives) in the Attenborough Studio to learn about William Smith and his famous geological map (1815).


Jill will be in the studio discussing the history behind the science and the story behind the man, and Hellen will join her via live link to the Library, to introduce the map and discuss it's features.


Come along to the studio ready for a 14.30 start.


This event is free.


To learn more about this map and William Smith read our previous Item of the Month blog



By Lisa Di Tommaso


The Library recently lent a selection of its artwork and manuscripts to two institutions in Australia. Watercolours from the First Fleet, Sydney Parkinson and Ferdinand Bauer collections went to the Australian National Maritime Museum for their exhibition entitled Fish in Australian Art.


courier blog 1.JPG

State Library of New South Wales


Items relating to John Lewin, the first professional artist to travel to Australia and earn his living there, are on loan to the State Library of New South Wales as part of their new exhibition, Wild Art.


A member of the Library’s staff travelled with the material from London, ensuring it arrived safely. While there, she was also able to see the items for the Lewin exhibition installed in the gallery.


Exhibitions such as these provide a unique opportunity for the Library to showcase its special collections throughout the world and allow greater access to our materials.


courier blog 2.JPG

State Library of New South Wales


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


Quantifying the evolution of early life : numerical approaches to the evaluation of fossils and ancient ecosystems

Dordrecht ; New York : Springer, 2011

P 15A q QUA


Rudolph Glossop and the rise of geotechnology : selected journals, diaries and letters

Dunbeath, Caithness : Whittles, 2010

P 65 o WIL


Riddle of the feathered dragons : hidden birds of China

New Haven : Yale University Press, 2012.

P 20e q FED


Quaternary glaciations : extent and chronology : a closer look

Amsterdam ; London : Elsevier Science Publishers, 2011

P 14 q EHL


The Eurypterid <Stoermeropterus conicus> from the Lower Silurian of the Pentland Hills, Scotland

London : Palaeontographical Society, 2011

P 26 q LAM


The lithic assemblages of Qafzeh Cave / Erella Hovers

Oxford : OUP, 2009

A 2 q HOV







A bibliography of taxonomic revisions for vascular plants in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand : The Forest Herbarium, 2011.

581.9 (593) MAU


Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 12, Part one, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana

London : Published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for the Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, 2012.

581.9 (689) EXE


Flora of China. Volume 23, Acoraceae through Cyperaceae

Beijing : Science Press ; St. Louis : Missouri Botanical Garden, 2010.

581.9 (51) FLO Q


Hua nan ku ju tai ke zhi wu / zhu bian Wei Yigang ; Guangxi Zhuangzu Zizhiqu, Zhongguo ke xue yuan, Guangxi zh wu yan jiu suo = Gesneriaceae of South China

Nanning : Guangxi ke xue ji shu chu ban she, 2010.

582.4 P119 WEI Q


Zhong guo tai xian zhi = Flora bryophytorum sinicorum. Vol. 9, Takakiales, Calobryales, Jungermanniales / red. principalis Gao Chien

Beijing : Science Press, 2003.

BRYOPHYTES 582.32 (5) FLO (9)


Zhong guo tai xian zhi = Flora bryophytorum Sinicorum. Vol. 5, Isobryales / Redactores principales

Publisher info: Beijing : Science Press, 2011.

BRYOPHYTES 582.32 (5) FLO (5)





The Myriapoda. Volume 1

Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2011



Ecological and environmental physiology of insects

Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2012

E 10C o HAR


Wading for bugs : exploring streams with the experts

Corvallis : Oregon State University Press, 2011

E 27 o LI


Non-native and invasive ticks : threats to human and animal health in the United States

Gainesville : University Press of Florida, 2011






Evaluación rápida de la biodiversidad y aspectos socioecosistémicos del Ramal de Calderas :Andes de Venezuela /|ceditores: Anabel Rial B. ... [et al] = Rapid assessment of the biodiversity and socio-ecosystem aspects of the Ramal de Calderas, Venezuelan Andes

Arlington, Va. : Conservation International, Center for Applied Diversity Science, 2010.

L 76B q EVA


The evidence for evolution

Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2011

L 9E o ROG


The theory of ecology

Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press, 2011

L 10A o THE


Aralkum-- a man-made desert : the desiccated floor of the Aral Sea (Central Asia)

Berlin ; Heidelberg : Springer, 2012

L 10E o ECO


The analysis of biological data

Greenwood Village, Colo. : Roberts and Co. Publishers, 2009

L 93 o WHI


Introduction to metadata

Los Angeles, CA : Getty Research Institute, 2008



Bioinformatics for omics data : methods and protocols

New York, N.Y. : Humana, 2011

L 93 q BIO


The science of imaging : an introductio

Boca Raton, FL : CRC Press, 2011

L 83 o SAX



Ornithology (Tring)


Petrels, albatrosses, and storm-petrels of North America : a photographic guide / Steve N.G. Howell ; in collaboration with J. Brian Patteson, Kate Sutherland, and Debra L. Shearwater.

Princeton [N.J.] : Princeton University Press, 2012.






Harpacticoid copepods from the Sussex coast (eastern English Channel) : records 1992-1997

Brighton : Booth Museum of Natural History, 2011



Iashcheritsy V'etnama=Lizards in Vitenam

Moskva : KMK. Tovarishchestvo nauchnykh izdaniÄ­, 2008



Primate sexuality : comparative studies of the prosimians, monkeys, apes and human beings

Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2012




Watercolour and pencil drawings of birds, mammals and boats of the Shetland Islands, with some drawings of plants of England and Scotland (1918-1974)



Grey Geese, Scotland

Image ref: 039659


Muriel Helen Dawson was born in Canterbury, New Zealand in 1897 and came to England in 1913 where she enrolled as a student at the Richmond School of Art. By 1918 she was at Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, attending the Southend School of Art, and later that year moved to London where she studied at the Royal College of Art.



Charadrius hiaticula, common ringed plover

Image ref: 039663


Dawson moved to the Shetland Islands in the late 1950’s, where she sketched and painted prodigiously, amassing a collection of sketchbooks of drawings of mainly birds, mammals and landscapes. All of these, along with some earlier work, were bequeathed to the Natural History Museum upon her death in 1974.


To see more of Muriel's work please visit the NHM Picture Library




Feast of St. Stephen, Sussex, England

Image ref: 039657




The Natural History Museum's Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) is delighted to announce the launch of a new website, Nathaniel Wallich and Indian Natural History at, highlighting an innovative collaboration between the Natural History Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the British Library.


The website, hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, reunites a significant part of Wallich's collections by making available digitised images of more than 300 drawings, several hundred associated herbarium specimens, and 110 files of documents from the India Office Records and Private Papers at the British Library.


For further information about the website, the development of which has been generously funded by the World Collections Programme, please see the website or contact the Head of CAHR, Julie Harvey on or 020 7942 5241.







To coincide with the new theme of Australian 18th century artwork in the Images of Nature Gallery, our Special Collections Librarian Lisa Di Tommaso and Aboriginal Australian artist Daniel Boyd will be taking part in a Nature Live event on Tuesday 7th February.





The Museum holds in its collections fascinating drawings of the Australian landscape and the people of the Eora Nation, seen through the eyes of British settlers. It gives a rare insight into the establishment of the first British penal colony in Port Jackson, from 1788 onwards, and the flora, fauna and people they encountered.










Portrait of an aboriginal man named Balloderree, from the Watling Collection
by Port Jackson painter

Image No.  012058






Come and join them both discussing their work, learn about this part of Australian history and a chance to see some of these fascinating paintings.



This event is free and suitable for adults.


The talk begins at 14.30 in the Attenborough Studio in the Darwin Centre.














Macropus giganteus, eastern gray kangaroo and Xanthorrhoea sp., grasstree

by George Raper

Image No.  015156




The brand new glossy Winter 2012 edition of the Museum's magazine Evolve is now available to buy.


The Library & Archives collections and staff feature in at least three articles!



The Birds of America - In October 2011 the NHM published a reproduction of John James Audubon's huge work The Birds of America. Learn more about this record breaking book and its author.



Hoping great things.... the search for early humans - With the 100th anniversary approaching, Karolyn Shindler has been researching the collections relating to the Piltdown Man and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward. This is the first of four forthcoming articles.







Images of Nature: The First Fleet collection - To coincide with the February 2012 change of theme for the Images of Nature art gallery, 18th century Australian artwork, this article is all about the theme, the artists and the artwork.


Our Special Collections Librarian, Lisa Di Tommaso has written a publication The Art of the First Fleet all about the unqiue First Fleet artwork collections held in the NHM Library & Archives. Available now from the NHM bookshop.


Library & Archives will be closed to external visitors every Monday until Autumn 2012 due to a major curation project.


We will remain open to the public 4 days a week (Tuesday-Friday) during this period. Apologies for any inconvenience.


For more information about visiting the Library & Archives please go to our web page.


The symposium Anchoring Biodiversity Information:From Sherborn to the 21st century and beyond, held on 28th October 2011, and brought together a wide range of people interested in history of science, bioinformatics and taxonomy to celebrate the work of Sherborn and discuss the future of the field.


Paul Cooper (Assistant Librarian) put together a display for attendees of items from the Library & Archives collections, and this online version includes a podcast of him talking about some of thise items, accompanied by a selection of images.


The full symposium is now available online!  You can listen to the talks with slides, and see the posters with an oral summary from the author, through this link:


Anchoring Biodiversity Information:
From Sherborn to the 21st century and beyond

Charles Davies Sherborn provided the bibliographic foundation for current zoological nomenclature with his magnum opus Index Animalium. In the 43 years he spent working on this extraordinary resource, he anchored our understanding of animal diversity through the published scientific record. No work has equalled it since and it is still in current, and critical, use.


Until now, Sherborn’s contribution has been recognised and relied upon by professional taxonomists worldwide but he has escaped the celebration of his accomplishment that is his due. This changed on Friday, 28 October 2011, with a symposium in his honour in the 150th year of his birth organised by the  ICZN, in collaboration with the Society for the History of Natural History at the Natural History Museum (NHM), London. The full day meeting included an international panel of experts on bibliography and biodiversity bioinformatics who linked a view of the past with an active debate on the future of the related fields.


The symposium was structured with an introduction to Sherborn as a man, scientist and bibliographer, then provided historical context for taxonomic indexing from the 19th century to today. Current tools and innovations were presented. The final sessions tackled the future of biological nomenclature, including shifting publishing modes and changing sociology of science in taxonomy. There were fifteen talks from distinguished speakers from around the world, and ten posters, including an exhibition of ‘Sherborniana’, or artefacts from Sherborn’s tenure at the NHM. The event was very well attended, with an audience of over 120 people present throughout most of the day. As the composition of the audience changed somewhat throughout the day, the number of people celebrating Sherborn was impressive.


The symposium was dedicated to Professor Frank Bisby, whose untimely death a few days earlier had shocked and saddened the biodiversity informatics community. Frank had initiated and directed Species 2000 and the Catalogue of Life, ambitious global taxonomy projects that build on the foundation laid by Sherborn’s indexes. The global and temporal reach of this event is being extended through podcasts of all the talks, posters and discussion, including slides and poster downloads, and videos of all the talks available through this site:


The event was organised and sponsored by the ICZN (Int’l Commission on Zoological Nomenclature) and the Society for the History of Natural History, with significant sponsorship support from the Linnean Society, BHL-Europe (Biodiversity Heritage Library-Europe), Pensoft Publishers (ZooKeys), The NHM – Natural History Museum, and ViBRANT – Virtual Biodiversity.


The Library & Archives reading room is closed to external visitors from Friday 23rd December 2011 - Monday 2nd January 2012 (inclusive).


We open as usual on Tuesday 3rd January 2012.


We wish you all a Happy Christmas & New Year.



Image 1401a_1.jpg









The weird and wonderful world of zoological ephemera



Come along and learn about a time before photography, television and radio, when animals from distant lands were brought to the attention of a curious general public.


Discover the world of travelling menageries, animal displays and other odd shows, during the 18th and 19th centuries, through the ephemera collection of the Library and Archives.


Come to the Attenborough Studio in the Darwin Centre, the talk starts at 14.30.


It's free!

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