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Drawn from Life

Drawn from Life: Science and Art in the Portrayal of the New World

Victoria Dickenson
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Drawn from Life
    Book Description:

    An illustrated archeology of the imagination that reveals how artists and writers from the late 16th to the early 19th century, most of whom had never seen North America, portrayed the natural history and landscape of North America to European readers.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7410-3
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Plates
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. Introduction: The Bittern from Hudson’s-Bay
    (pp. 3-18)

    It is almost twenty years since I first encountered a print signed ‘Geo. Edwards,’ of a bittern ‘from Hudson’s-Bay’ (plate 1; see colour plates). The print – a copperplate etching, hand-coloured and dated 1748 – was obviously a page from a book. The bird itself looked strange; the plumage was reasonably correct, but the stance awkward and unnatural. On an accompanying text page, the author had compared this bird, brought from ‘Hudson’s-Bayby Mr.Isham,’ with one taken near London, and found that it was somewhat smaller than the European bird. ‘It is very much the Colour and Make of...

  8. one Emblematic Animals
    (pp. 19-44)

    In 1492, Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) set the standard of Spain on his first landfall in the New World. When he returned, he wrote a letter to Luis de Santangel, who had helped him to find financing for the voyage, describing the journey and the lands that they had seen. The ‘Columbus letter’ was first published in Barcelona as a broadsheet in March or April 1493, and over the next five years was republished in at least seventeen editions, including a Latin translation, making it available to erudite readers throughout Europe. It had also been translated into sixty-eight stanzas of...

  9. two Naturalism and the Counterfeit of Nature
    (pp. 45-68)

    We have examined the use of animals as signs or marks for the new lands being explored and the development of new iconic images by authors and artists struggling to represent a creature for which they had no model. We have also taken a cursory look at some of the transformations of the iconic image of a particular creature over a period of a century or more. We are left with the impression that the visual world of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, at least as far as the depiction of the natural history of the New World was...

  10. three The Living Image
    (pp. 69-104)

    Samuel de Champlain (ca1567–1635) first sailed to Canada in 1603 as an observer on a French colonizing expedition. In 1608 he returned to Canada and founded Quebec, making la Nouvelle France his second home. In 1613, he published an account of his explorations in the New World:Les voyages du Sieur de Champlain Xaintongeois, Capitaine ordinaire pour le Roy, subtitledIournal tresfidele des observations enrichi de quantité de figures... While illustrations based on Champlain’s detailed sketches of Native life were included in his 1620Voyages et descouvertures, the 1613 volume was enriched primarily with small maps of...

  11. four The Redefinition of Landscape
    (pp. 105-140)

    The curious voyage of Louis Hennepin (1626—ca1705) began in 1676, when he arrived in Canada as a Récollet missionary. He spent eleven years in North America, travelling through much of la Nouvelle France and visiting Louisiana. His description of his travels in Louisiana appeared in 1683, andNouvelle découverte d’un tres grand pays... was first published in 1697. Various editions of these works comprising additional information from other published works on North America were printed in a total of forty-six editions in French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian, and English before the middle of the eighteenth century.¹Nouvelle...

  12. five The Classification of the Visible: Part One
    (pp. 141-162)

    In 1743, George Edwards published the first of a series of illustrated books. It was entitledA Natural History of Birds. Most of which have not been figur’d or describ’d, and others very little known from obscure or too brief Descriptions without Figures, or from Figures very ill design’d... TheHistorywas dedicated to God.¹ Part I included ‘The Figures of Sixty Birds and Two Quadrupeds, engrav’d on Fify-two Copper Plates, after curious Original Drawings from Life, and exactly colour’d.’ It was followed in 1747 by part II, which contained illustrations of sixty-one birds and two quadrupeds in fifty-three plates,...

  13. six The Classification of the Visible: Part Two
    (pp. 163-188)

    It is easy to dismiss George Edwards and his generation as mere daubers, producers of charming portraits of exotic pets and colourful curiosities. That is not, however, how Edwards and his circle saw either his work or the work of his colleagues. As Edwards noted, he had in twenty years met with little criticism or cavil against his books; rather, he had received honour and praise. Sir Hans Sloane had secured for him his position as bedell to the Royal College of Physicians. In 1750 he won the Copley Gold Medal from the Royal Society, and in the mid-1750s was...

  14. seven A Country Observed
    (pp. 189-226)

    Observation was one of the watchwords of the eighteenth century. In the English-speaking world, James Isham, George Edwards’s correspondent from Hudson Bay, wrote hisObservationsin 1743, while John Bartram, the great American collector, published hisObservations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, ... in 1751. We have already noted Albin’s assurances to his readers of his skill in ‘ocular observation.’ Daines Barrington (1727—1800), correspondent of Gilbert White’s, urged naturalists to keep a journal where they could record the ‘many other particulars [that] daily offer themselves to the observer’ in the hope that ‘from many such journals...

  15. Conclusion: Drawing and Nature
    (pp. 227-244)

    I began this enquiry with a series of questions about a single image. Looking at that particular and singular image, ‘The Bittern from Hudson’s-Bay,’ led me to a more general examination of an entire class of images, and an attempt to comprehend the ways in which these images had been created, used, and understood by their viewers or, some might say, their readers.¹ My original questions focused on the nature of a dissonance I perceived to exist between the way in which we, as late-twentieth-century readers, saw Edwards’s rendition of a bittern, and the way it was viewed by Edwards’s...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 245-278)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-300)
  18. Credits
    (pp. 301-302)
  19. Index
    (pp. 303-320)