London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, circa 1860.
Attractive collection of coloured zoological plates prepared for British schoolchildren during the mid-nineteenth century, including two Australian species (an emu and a kangaroo). The plates were issued by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the publishing arm of the Anglican mission that during the early decades of the nineteenth century diversified its output from religious and theological texts to encompass a broad range of educational material, such as the present example. The plates were originally issued separately, priced at two pennies apiece when coloured, and the present bound volume represents a good portion of the entire series (of the 119 plates here, 53 are numbered).
The explanatory text reflects a spirit of benevolent pedagogy. Take the description of the Emu for example: ‘These birds are widely spread over the southern part of New Holland, and the neighbouring islands. They are met with at Port Philip and King George’s Sound. Their food consists almost wholly of fruits, roots and herbage; they are quite harmless, except when attacked… It is sometimes coursed for sport; being pursued by well-trained dogs, which run up abreast and make a sudden spring at the creatures neck. This, however, is a cruel amusement. We have no right to seek our pleasure in a dumb creatures pain…’
Aside from the Australian fauna, the collection includes fish, cetaceans, reptiles and all manner of old world mammals.
Oblong album containing 119 handcoloured plates, bound in recent red cloth; repaired tears affect a few plates (Australian images unaffected), margins of the final seven plates chipped.
Price (AUD): $3,600.00 other currencies