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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


The Golden Bird of Paradise


The King Bird of Paradise


The Whooping Crane


The Black-Capped Lory


The Green Parrot of the West Indies


The Longest-Tailed Hummingbird


The Ornate Lorikeet


The Penguin


The Red African Gray Parrot


The Hawk-Headed Parrot


The Dodo and the Guinea Pig


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.’”