Original watercolour and pencil studies of West Indian birds and fish.
Item ID 68752
Caribbean, unpublished, 1741. Three sheets (size 38 x 48 (twice) and 34 x 44 cm), of which two illustrated on both sides. All three with simple, old, cardboard frames. A rare collection of original pre-Linnean Caribbean ornithology and ichthyology (field) sketches, on large sheets of laid paper (water mark crowned shield with a horn, and the name L. V. Gerrevink; a Dutch paper maker, active during the first half of the 18th century) most probably made by a sailor with an interest in natural history, during a voyage in the Caribbean. The plates show a number of birds, and fish, described below. Localities are mentioned for most: Cuba, Jamaica, St. Christopher (St. Kitts), Dominica, Cartageña (Colombia), and Maracaibo (Venezuela), thus four different Caribbean islands, on two harbour towns on the South American mainland coast. The first sheet is numbered 258, and has the following birds and captions on the front side (recto) 1. The Rain Bird Jam. Cub. Dom. S. Christ. 2. another sort of Rain Bird. 3. another sort of watchy pickel or Spanish Nightingale [a mocking bird; the name watchy pickel is unknown to us]. And on its verso: The Curaçao vel Gallus Indicus Carthag. Maracaibo & c [the rendering of this bird is quite accurate]. The second sheet, numbered 255, contains 1. Noctua minor ex pallida et fusca avaria Cuba [this is the Antillian nighthawk]. 2. A woodpecker one kind of Cuba. 3. The crab-catcher of Dominica / Jamaica taken in Cuba. And on the verso: 1. the watchy pickel, or Spanish Nightingale Jamaica 1741 / 257... 1741... J: Cub. et Domin. 2. The small black bird of Jamaica 1741. 3. The Banana bird of Jamaica. The third sheet is numbered 240, and contains two fish: 1. Te Mud-fish [two drawings; whole animal, lateral, and the head, ventral] 2. Parot [SIC] fish. All drawings are quite large, some life-sized, and detailed, although slightly naive, and clearly by the same hand. The numbering may suggest that these three sheets were part of a much larger collection of zoological observations, but nothing remotely similar to these sketches is known. The work is contemporary to that of Mark Catesby, but less refined. The artist was probably not a trained zoologist, but, rather, a keen amateur with a good eye for detail. Because of the presence of localities these drawings are of historical, and also zoogeographical interest. Paper of one sheet somewhat unevenly tanned, otherwise in very good condition. Churchill, 318 (water-mark).