SHAW, George (1751-1813)
A suite of nine plates from Shaw’s Zoology of New Holland, 1794
[London] : Printed by J. Davis : Published by J. Sowerby, 1794. Nine engravings with original hand colour, each approximately 230 x 160 mm (plate lines), on J. Whatman watermarked paper, 303 x 242 mm (sheet), titled and imprinted in the image (imprint erased from one as issued), small stab holes from the string binding (as issued), a couple of faint spots of foxing, but a uniformly fine collection.
Exquisite artworks from the very rare first book on the zoology of Australia.
Shaw’s Zoology was originally issued in parts in 1793 alongside James Edward Smith’s Botany to form a joint publication Zoology and Botany of New Holland. After a few issues the collaborators parted ways and finished their series independently, Smith naming his work A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland, and Shaw his Zoology of New Holland. Each work had a new title page. Illustrations in both were done by the talented natural history engraver James Sowerby (1757 – 1822). Both publications are rare, but Shaw’s Zoology more so. It contains sixteen stunning hand coloured plates, of which nine are offered here as a suite.
The plates are :
1. Didelphis pygmaea (Feathertail glider)
3. Psittacus terrestris (Ground pigeon)
5. Columba antarctica (Antarctic pigeon)
7. Testude longicollis (Common snake-necked turtle)
9. Turdus punctatus (Spotted quail thrush)
10. Coluber porphyriacus (Red-bellied black snake)
11. Didelphis sciurea (Squirrel opossum)
12. Didelphis macroura (Thick-tailed opossum)
[imprint erased]. Merops phrygius (Regent honeyeater)
‘Despite its modest scope – only 34 pages – Zoology of New Holland is a landmark publication. Illustrated by James Sowerby, this is the earliest volume dedicated to Australia’s unique fauna. Significantly, it marks the first use of the term ‘Australia’. The book contains 12 dramatically composed, hand-coloured plates. The engravings are all the more impressive as James Sowerby had not visited Australia and was working from dried skins and pickled specimens’. – John Kean, The art of science: Remarkable natural history illustrations from Museum Victoria, 2013, p. 39.
It is easy to imagine the impact Sowerby’s dramatic renderings of these never-before seen exotic animals would have had when they were viewed by a Georgian audience for the first time. Complete sets of Shaw’s Zoology, or indeed any of the individual plates, are rarely offered for sale.
Ferguson 196; Nissen ZBI 3838; Wood, p. 566.