Friday, November 16, 2012

Illustrators and Authors of bird books: John Anderson

Strictly speaking John Anderson was neither an author of a bird book nor an illustrator. The reason I am sticking him on my blog here is due to his little known publication: 'Anatomical and Zoological researches: Comprising an Account of the Zoological Results of the Two expeditions to Western Yunnan in 1868 and 1875.'  On one of these two expeditions Anderson collected a specimen of the Irrawaddy dolphin, Orcaella brevirostris and conducted anatomical comparisons with the River Ganges dolphin, Plantanista gangetica. He tended to make comparative anatomical studies of all of the species he collected and he worked on reptiles as well as mammals and birds. What makes this report so interesting from a birder's perspective is the series of ten plates by John Gerrard Keulemans. I would think that these plates have very rarely seen the light of day so this is a good opportunity to post a few for viewing.
Anderson, a Scot, was born in 1833 and died in 1900 and he was blessed or burdened with one of the longest lists of Fs you are likely to see. He was: FRSE, FRS, FRGS, FZS, FLS, FRPSE, FSA! That's a lot of societies. He was born in Edinburgh and studied medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1861.
Anderson was appointed to the chair of natural history in the Free Church college in Edinburgh where he worked for the next two years but his big decision was made when he accepted the position as the first curator of the Indian Museum at Calcutta. He moved to India in 1864 and took up his post in 1865 and held it until 1887.

He made several expeditions to China and Burma collecting a great many specimens along the way and the report on his travels to Yunnan contained plates of reptiles - mainly types of tortoise, mammals and fish as well as odd plates of insects and shells. All of the plates  - 83 in total, are well executed but it is the set of 10 bird plates which catch the eye. All 81 plates are lithographs that have been individually hand-coloured.
John Gerrard Keulemans illustrated a number of works during the 19th century and I will post more of his work on later blogs. Especially after I have worked out how to prevent images turning blurry when they have been posted.  Now test your ID skills by naming the five birds above.

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