Grotesque Animals

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MR. E. W. COOKE possesses so high a reputation, not only as one of the leading artists of the day, but also as a man eminently devoted to science, as evidenced by the fact of his having attained the double distinction of Royal Academician and Fellow of the Royal Society, that anything proceeding from his pencil cannot fail to be worthy of notice, and we have accordingly looked through this quaint collection of facsimile drawings with very great interest. Mr. Cooke states, in his preface, that he commenced this series of “grotesque combinations,” to which he also assigns the euphonious title of “Ent-wickelungsgeschicte”(history of development), while seeking rest and relief on the Somersetshire Coast after the dissipation attendant upon the meeting of the British Association at Manchester, in 1864, and that the idea of publication was forced upon him by friends who wished to have copies of the drawings. We are not surprised at his numerous friends and admirers desiring that these results of his holiday recreations should be given to the world; for, apart from the merits of the drawings in an artistic point of view, containing, as they do, powerful delineations of animal forms, they exhibit a singular and amusing fertility of imagination, the disjecta membra of birds, beasts, and fishes, being worked up together in a variety of fantastic forms which it would puzzle Mr. Darwin or Professor Owen to classify. The plates are accompanied by short descriptions, also by Mr. Cooke, and intended, he says, “as a key to aid the unintiated in animal lore.” We give our readers the following-descriptions as a sample:—“Plate v. No. I. An odd fish—Platax—with dress of a bivalve shell, Pecten Gibbosus. The feet of a sprat-loon, Colymbus Stel-latus, and tail of Beroe. No. 2. Encrinus entrocha, a Lily-encrinite, wears the head-dress of a porpita, one of the Acalephæ. Her dress being of Flustra, her right arm is a Pentelasmis, her left a species of Serpula. No. 3. This pig-faced lady, whose body is ‘ Parasmilia centralist,’ has wings of Avicnla cygnipes (both species from the chalk), and limbs of a bird (species unknown).. . Plate x. No. I. This scaly creature, capped by Cepha-laspis, has the feet of a Brazilian porcupine, the hetero-cercal tail of a Palæozoic fish, and the lower jaw and tusks of Dinotherium wherewith to scratch himself. Plate xiii. No. 3. This ancient spinster, truly Palæozoic, has the triturating teeth of a fish, Cestracion Philipi; her cap is an Argonauta, her body that of the Port Jackson shark, her fan (Spanish, of course) a Renilla. Isis hippuris furnishes her arms. .. Plate xviii. No. I. This hollow character, formed of the lower jaw of the hippopotamus, has very diverse arms, the right being an Ancyloceras. the left Hamites attenuatus. His head-gear is well got up with hide, horns, and the beak of a spoonbill! ... Plate xx. No. i, thanks to Monte Bolca and its elevated strata of dried fish, we have Semiophorus vellifer (a fish of the Eocene.) With Scutes on his neck, and the claws of a lion, he walks his chalks; an upper cretaceous shell, Plagiostoma spinosum, defends his body.” Many of the plates remind us of the gambols of the crustaceæ and other marine animals in Babil and Bijou, and we have no doubt that Mr. Boucicault, in his next attempt to “impiove the British Drama,” will find in this volume an endless variety of suggestions for humorous stage effects. We must not omit to mention the admirable manner in which the drawings have been reproduced by Mr. Sawyer of the Autotype Fine Art Company, the plates being exact facsimiles of the drawings. We anticipate an extensive circulation for this beautifully-executed and entertaining work.

Grotesque Animals.

Invented, Drawn, and Described by E. W. Cooke., &c. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1872.)

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C., G. Grotesque Animals . Nature 7, 280–281 (1873) doi:10.1038/007280a0

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