This paper examines how communities of naturalists in mid-nineteenth-century Britain were formed and solidified around the shared practices of public meetings, the publication and reading of periodicals, and the making and printing of images. By focusing on communities of naturalists and the sites of their communication, this article undermines the distinction between amateur and professional scientific practice. Building on the notion of imagined communities, this paper also shows that in some cases the editors and illustrators utilized imagery to construct a specifically British naturalist community. Following three ‘amateur’ natural-history periodicals (Science Gossip, Midland Naturalist and the Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club) the article demonstrates how the production and reproduction of natural history in the nineteenth century was contingent on community debate – and that this debate both was highly visual and moved across printed and geographical boundaries. This paper investigates images both for their purported success and for their ascribed value to natural history. Additionally, it considers the debates over their limitations and alleged failures of printing. Altogether, the article argues that investigating the communal practices of observation, writing, drawing and engraving allows for a better understanding of the shared practices of nineteenth-century natural history.
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