Rare Book Round Up – Nature

Each week our Collections Manager Rhian, brings you our ‘Rare Book of the Week’ on social media. Too good to be lost in the daily deluge of tweets and instagrams we wanted to bring you a round-up of some of our favourites. The theme this time is nature.

How stunning is this Granulated Cuttle illustration?

George Shaw’s ‘The Naturalist’s Miscellany’ (1789-1813) contains stunning hand-coloured engravings of birds, mammals, fish, and other living things from across the world. Published monthly, this was Shaw’s longest running production, with 3-4 illustrations in each instalment. The Naturalist’s Miscellany was the first to describe the platypus, meaning the name Shaw gave the mammal, is the one in use today, however credit for the illustration lies with Frederick and Elizabeth Nodder and their son Richard, a 19th Century illustrating and publishing family.

The engraved, hand-coloured plates are a thing of beauty.

“What are men compared to rocks and trees” asks Elizabeth Bennet in Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, well Lizzie would have been a fan of ‘Sylvan Musings; or Spirit of the Woods’ (1849) by Leeds botanist and poet Rebecca Hey. Recording and illustrating 36 tree species from British forests, in her preface Hey invites the reader to “Partake the enthusiasm of the writer towards the whole leafy race,”. Her works were originally published anonymously.

For our final rare book entry, we have a two-parter by Edward Topsell, with his popular bestiaries, featuring creatures both real and fantastic. A British clergyman and not a naturalist, Topsell relied on previous reports, borrowing heavily from others, possibly why in his 1607 Foure-Footed Beasts, he repeats fantastic tales of the sphinx, the mantichora and the unicorn, alongside reports of the rhinoceros, the tiger, and the bloodhound.

The following year, Topsell saw the publication of ‘The History of Serpents’ (1608), with both books published by William Jaggard (famous for publishing Shakespeare’s first folio) and it would not be until 30 years after Topsell’s death that both books would be combined into one volume over 1000 pages long.

In the Leeds Central Library journal collection, you will find the Nature journal. First published in 1869, Nature is the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research.

Please visit the Local Studies department on the 2nd Floor of the Leeds Central Library to see these items in person.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Janet says:

    The illustrations are beautiful

  2. edsalkeld2015 says:

    Fab post. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.