This folio engraving is from George Shaw’s Cimelia Physica, Figures of Rare and Curious Quadrupeds, Birds, etc. Together with Several of the Most Elegant Plants… John Frederick Miller completed the original hand-coloring for the work, often heightened with gum arabic. This is from the second edition which was the first to add George Shaw’s descriptions. The work published by T. Bensley for Benjamin & John White & John Sewell in 1796. Each is printed on woven, watermarked paper dated 1822.
This exceptional natural history work featured flora and fauna of South Africa, North & South America, the East Indies, Australia, & Antarctica. The engravings were styled in a similar way to Mark Catesby’s work with the animal paired with an exotic and relevant plant.
“John Frederick [Miller] was taken into Banks’s employment. He drew many of the artefacts collected on James Cook’s Endeavour voyage of 1768-71 and both brothers were to have accompanied Banks on Cook’s second voyage. When that plan foundered, John Frederick accompanied Banks on his travels to the Orkneys, Hebrides, and Iceland in 1772; his drawings are now in the Natural History Museum, London. He subsequently published some of his engravings made from the Iceland drawings without Banks’s permission, and allowed other plates to be used by Thomas Pennant to illustrate his “Arctic Zoology” (1784-7). In 1786-92 he published forty-three plates with descriptions, entitled “Various Subjects of Natural History”, and in 1796 he illustrated George Shaw’s “Cimelia physica”, both works treating rare quadrupeds, birds, and plants.” (Timothy Clayton for DNB)
Some of the subjects in this work are of particular note with remarks from Shaw including the flightless Cassowary ‘totally destitute of wings’; the Antarctic Falcon; Alcedo formosa a South American kingfisher ‘never before described’; the violet-black Hoopoe ‘one of the rarest of its genus as well as one of the most beautiful’; and an Indian toucan.