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George Edwards's Picture of the Dodo

Nature volume 131, page 615 (29 April 1933) | Download Citation



THE biographical notice of George Edwards, the eighteenth century naturalist, which appeared in the January issue of Science Progress, may be amplified by some points of interest in regard to Edwards's picture of the dodo (Didus ineptus). Edwards, himself, tells us in the “Gleanings of Natural History”, Part 2, 1760, that the coloured figure of the bird (Plate 294), was copied in 1757, as reduced, from a picture in oil-colours, of its natural size, this about thirty inches high. Further, that the original was drawn in Holland from the living bird from St. Maurice's Island (Mauritius) in the East Indies; that it was the property of Sir Hans Sloane, at the time of his death, becoming afterwards Edwards's property. The owner deposited (1759) the picture in the British Museum “as a great curiosity”, and with Sloane's record. The original canvas, it may be mentioned, portrayed various other birds; also a few lizards and a toad. Edwards, however, simply selected the dodo for his plate, adding a guinea-pig for the sake of relative magnitude. It appears that the picture was copied in brighter colours (it was blackened through age) about 1877 by Mrs. L. Gunther, mother of Dr. Albert Gunther, keeper of the Zoological Department of the British Museum. From this copy, which is at Oxford, a postcard in colour was ultimately, made, and is obtainable at the Old Ashmolean, Oxford. The large picture which hangs in the Bird Gallery of the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, is the original canvas, which has been cleaned; the post cards in colour available at the Museum are repro ductions of this picture.

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