London: The College of Physicians, 1743-51. second edition. Matted in Rag Board. Pl 203 The Great Spotted Lizard with a Forked Tail. Original hand-colored copperplate engraving. Quarto (9 x 12 inches). Includes text. This print is from a later edition printed on J Whatman Turkey Mills paper watermarked 1836.
George Edwards (London 1694-1773) was a Fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in London who rejected his early formal training and potential career in business to pursue his passion in natural history. His dedication and talent as a draftsman and naturalist was evident, thus gaining the attention of Sir Hans Sloane, President of the College of Physicians and the Royal Society. Sir Hans offered Edwards the post of Librarian of the Royal College of Physicians in London, and enlisted him to draw the natural curiosities of Sloane's private museum. This connection became the inspiration for Edward's masterful achievements; A Natural History of Uncommon Birds Published between 1743 and 1751, and the subsequent work; Gleanings of Natural History which was produced between 1758 and 1764. These two works illustrated and documented many previously unrecorded specimens of birds, reptiles and insects held in England's private collections up to the mid eighteenth century. A monumental achievement, Edwards documented- in English and French-, painted, engraved and hand-colored every one of the fine compositions in this Pre-Linnaean natural history opus. Although not a field naturalist, Edwards placed many of his birds and animals in landscaped settings, which was unusual for the time. In other compositions birds are elegantly perched on stylized branches in a classic Georgian format, more decorative than realistic, charming nonetheless.
A gracious and humble man, Edwards established firm and respected alliances with naturalist pioneers Carl Linnaeus (1707-78), Mark Catesby, (1683-1749) from whom he learned the art of engraving, and subsequently aided Catesby in the revision of his publication; The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, London c.1754, as well as William Bartram, from whom he acquired several species of Pennsylvanian birds included in his volumes. As Edwards' work predates the completion of the Linnaean classification system, Linnaeus was to borrow the English names of many of Edwards species for his renowned work on classification and nomenclature. (Ref: Buchanan, Jackson, Fine Bird Books.). Fine. Item #7016