New information about our collections is always being unearthed, shedding light on the many local guides, artists and collectors whose expertise enhanced the work of naturalists in the 18th and 19th centuries.
'[Red panda]', J. Hayes (artist), Bharat Singh (collector), Thomas Hardwicke FLS (author) 'Description of a quadruped, a native of the Himalayan Chain between Nepal and the Snowy Mountains' (1821, SP/456/2)
This watercolour drawing of Ailurus fulgens (Cuvier, 1825), dated January 1821, accompanied English soldier-naturalist Thomas Hardwicke's (1756–1835) paper, 'Description of a quadruped, a native of the Himalayan Chain between Nepal and the Snowy Mountains', which was read at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 6 November 1821. It is believed to be the first drawing of a red panda to arrive in Europe, and predates the French naturalist Frédéric (Georges) Cuvier's description of the red panda by four years. However, because Hardwicke's paper was not published until 1827 (Transactions of the Linnean Society, Vol. 15), Cuvier's description and name took precedence. It is thought that the specimen in Hardwicke's paper was collected by a local man named Bharat Singh.
'Calycarpa scandens', John Tyley (artist), Alexander Anderson FLS (collector), 'Alexander Anderson papers: botanical drawings' (c.1785-c.1811, MS/609/36)
Dr Alexander Anderson FLS (1748–1811) was a Scottish botanist and gardener, who, in 1785, was appointed superintendent of the St Vincent Botanical Garden (est. 1765), the first botanical garden in the Caribbean. Anderson's attention was drawn to John Tyley, a self-taught botanical illustrator from Antigua. Anderson employed Tyley, a free person of colour, to illustrate plants growing at St Vincent, and this Calycarpa scandens is one of 11 drawings signed by Tyley and collected by Anderson to form a collection of 148 drawings of plants from the garden at St Vincent. It is believed now this drawing depicts a species of the Davilla genus, and not a Callicarpa. The Society was lucky enough to acquire an additional drawing by Tyley depicting a breadfruit tree in 2021.
'Cyprinus niloticus', Haludar (probable artist), Francis Buchanan-Hamilton (collector), 'Bengal fish drawings' (c.1799, MS/401F/3/1)
This watercolour drawing of an Indian carp (current name: Catla catla) is part of a collection of nine drawings of fish from Bengal, collected and described by Scottish physician and botanist Francis Buchanan-Hamilton FLS (1762-1829) during his time with the British East India Company, with the majority, if not all, being produced by Haludar, a Bengali artist who accompanied Buchanan-Hamilton on his travels from Bengal. Haludar was paid a gold Mohur a month for his work. His technique is clear and rather modern, with no unnecessary shading and clean lines. Each watercolour also shows the local names of each species (Kaatlaae for this drawing) in Bengali script, possibly by Haludar himself. In a paper in The Linnean, Henry Noltie FLS noted that, based on his artistic skill, Haludar ‘can claim an equal role in the taxonomic process’. Buchanan-Hamilton would publish An account of the fishes found in the River Ganges and its branches in 1822. The Buchanan-Hamilton collections are all available to view on our Online Collections.
'[Reticulated python]', Unknown artist, Thomas Hardwicke FLS (collector), 'Description of a Serpent hitherto supposed of the genus Boa, and the Boa Phrygia of Shaw' (1821, SP/463/2)
This beautiful watercolour drawing of a reticulated python (current name: Malayopython reticulatus), dated 'Calcutta, December 1821', accompanied solider-naturalist Thomas Hardwicke's paper, 'Description of a Serpent hitherto supposed of the genus Boa, and the Boa Phrygia of Shaw; but [...] proposed to [...] designate it, Coluber Phrygia', which was read at a meeting of the Linnean Society on 4 March 1823. The paper was not published, but is noted in Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, Vol. 14, p. 582 (1825).
'Gordonia Chillawnea', Haludar (probable artist), Francis Buchanan-Hamilton (collector), 'Nepal plant drawings' (1802, MS/401D/1/62)
This drawing of a needlewood tree (current name: Schima wallichii) is part of a collection of drawings of plants and animals from Nepal, collected by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton FLS (1762–1829) during his time with the British East India Company. He would go on to be known as the 'Father of Nepalese botany'. Unfortunately, many local artists from this period remain unknown, but in this case we know that it was most likely the work of Haludar (see Cyprinus niloticus above). The undated drawings were prepared from live material, and the Society's collection illustrates 114 species of plants from Nepal, the specimens of which are also housed in the Linnean Society herbarium.