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The Uncommon Birds of George Edwards

April 3, 2014 | by

Edwards American Kingfisher

The American Kingfisher

edwards the bearded vulture

The Bearded Vulture

Edwards The Toucan or Brazilian Pye

The Toucan or Brazilian Pye

edwards_golden_bird_of_paradise_1

The Golden Bird of Paradise

edwards_king_bird_of_paradise_1

The King Bird of Paradise

edwards_whooping_crane_1

The Whooping Crane

edwards-black-capped-lory_1

The Black-Capped Lory

edwards-green-parrot-west-indies_1

The Green Parrot of the West Indies

edwards-longest-tailed-humming-bird_1

The Longest-Tailed Hummingbird

edwards-ornate-lorikeet_1

The Ornate Lorikeet

edwards-penguin_1

The Penguin

edwards-red-african-gray-parrot_1

The Red African Gray Parrot

hawk-headed-parrot_1

The Hawk-Headed Parrot

The_Dodo_and_the_Guiney_pig

The Dodo and the Guinea Pig

The_Summer_Duck_Of_Catesby

The Summer Duck of Catesby

George Edwards, born today in 1694, is known as “the father of British ornithology”—as fine a paternal legacy as a guy can hope for. Today, his reputation as a naturalist endures in no small part because of his excellent drawings, which introduced English readers to scores of exotic creatures: first and foremost, birds. His greatest work is the four-volume Natural History of Uncommon Birds, whose full august title deserves to be seen in toto: A Natural History of Uncommon Birds: And of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals, Quadrupeds, Fishes, Reptiles, Insects, &c., Exhibited in Two Hundred and Ten Copper-plates, from Designs Copied Immediately from Nature, and Curiously Coloured After Life, with a Full and Accurate Description of Each Figure, to which is Added A Brief and General Idea of Drawing and Painting in Water-colours; with Instructions for Etching on Copper with Aqua Fortis; Likewise Some Thoughts on the Passage of Birds; and Additions to Many Subjects Described in this Work.

These drawings are taken from that work, which you can read here. Of particular note is his illustration of the dodo, which was, even then, extraordinarily rare and facing extinction.

As for the man: According to The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and Their Collectors, a contemporary of Edwards’s “described him as of medium stature, inclined to plumpness and of a cheerful, kindly nature ‘associated with a charming diffidence.’”

 

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