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This complete set of 40 volumes with 1248 hand-colored engravings is from Sir William Jardines work The Naturalists Library. The work was published c1833-1860s in London & Edinburgh. Each volume features a memoir of a prominent man.
Each steel engraved plate features an animal presented in nature. The backgrounds for each plate are left uncolored, while the figure was originally hand-colored at the time of printing. The engravings for this work were based off many of the predominant artists in the field of natural history including John James Audubon, John Gould, Maria Sybilla Merian, William Swainson, Edward Lear, Prideaux, and John Selby.
The Naturalists Library was published to be accessible to a wide audience of natural history enthusiasts. Most importantly the work was intended to educate the youth, and thus why the work was published in a small octavo size. The work was much more affordable than others available at the time and illustrated many subjects of natural history including, birds, animals, fish and insects.
Jardine was considered a talented natural history artist. Some of his original work is in the London Natural History Museum and the Royal Scottish Museum. Jardine contributed much of the text to this work as well.