The Natural History of Edward Lear


Robert McCracken Peck

Regular price €35.00

Published David R Godline 2016                                                                                         ISBN 978-1567925838                                                                                                           224 pages

Edward Lear, if recognized at all, is most commonly remembered as the endearing master of nonsense verse (e.g. the owl and the pussycat who went to sea in a pea-green boat) and for his enduring limericks (he virtually invented the form). But the first manifestation of his genius was his penchant for drawing-and especially for capturing animals directly from life. He was, like many of his English contemporaries, precocious, displaying his talent at a shockingly early age and publishing his first book, a monograph on the parrot family, when he was only eighteen. In it, he created what is still acknowledged as one of the premier, early works of lithography (Lear worked directly on the stones) and established a format that would be followed for decades by such publishers as Gould, with whom he worked closely and often anonymously. But the first decade of his artistic life was primarily devoted to creating works of natural history, working with the infrastructure of British scientists, collectors, and publishers who made that country the nexus for scientific investigation and its dissemination for much of the nineteenth century. 
Augmented by over 200 full-color illustrations, many of them drawn from the extraordinary collection at the Houghton Library at Harvard, extended to include the influence Lear has had on such modern artists and illustrators as Walton Ford and Tony Foster, and enlivened by a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough, this book goes far beyond the scope of a dry scholarly study. It is a fascinating exploration of the dawn of natural history's golden age of color, made more so by Lear's humor, travels, friends, and his extravagant gifts as an artist.