Natural History going Viral… Back in the day

Having looked at the New Naturalists and seen how natural history was a vehicle for advances in book design and war time propaganda, it is interesting to move further back in the history of its publishing and review some of the shoulders upon which that series stands. Opportunity arose for me guise of Jardine’s “The Naturalist’s Library”…

Natural History was among the collectables of the Victorian period, becoming quite the craze. Societies were formed and opportunities abounded for individuals to mix across classes and gender divides, yes it was even a science that it was acceptable for women to study. This series predates Victoria’s reign by three years, the first titles being published in 1833, but their popularity took off during that era. The desire to learn and to pass that along, lead to the accessibility of that knowledge in such an attractive format and helped fuel a human hankering to pit itself against nature in the hunt for specimens.

Sir William Jardine (1800-1874), 7th Baronet of Applegarth, was a naturalist and author to some earlier volumes but also editor to the series, hence he is associated with the collection – often referred to as the “Jardine’s”. They were published by his brother-in-law William Home Lizars, whom had inherited the publishing house from his father Daniel Lizars, a talented duo of artist engravers. Jardine’s daughter also had a part to play as she illustrated some of the bird plates- quite the family affair.

As an aside, Jane Home Lizars (Jardine’s wife), had another brother – John Lizars FRSE (1792-1860). John was professor at the most prestigious Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and one of his better known pupils was Charles Darwin.

We have had quite a lovely collection of these fascinating and wonderfully illustrated books come into our possession; it has been a privilege and pleasure to catalogue them.