Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Illustrating natural history: images, periodicals, and the making of nineteenth-century scientific communities

  • GEOFFREY BELKNAP (a1)
Abstract

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.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Illustrating natural history: images, periodicals, and the making of nineteenth-century scientific communities
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Illustrating natural history: images, periodicals, and the making of nineteenth-century scientific communities
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Illustrating natural history: images, periodicals, and the making of nineteenth-century scientific communities
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
Footnotes
Hide All

This research was conducted as part of the AHRC-funded project Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries. I would like to thank Gowan Dawson, Sally Shuttleworth, Matthew Wale, Sally Frampton and Berris Charnley for their comments on this paper, and Paul Cooper and Andrea Hart from the Natural History Museum for finding sources I would have never come across without their guidance. I would also like to thank the community of citizen scientists at www.sciencegossip.org who informed the research for this paper – and in particular ‘Jules’ and ‘Zuzi’ for taking the time to read and comment on this article.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

1 The illustrated cover page has a long history in scientific printed works – particularly books – from the seventeenth century onwards. See Söderlund, Inga Elmqvist, Taking Possession of Astronomy: Frontispieces and Illustrated Title Pages in 17th-Century Books on Astronomy, Stockholm: Center for the History of Science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 2011.

2 ‘Del’ and ‘Sc’ are abbreviations for delineavit (‘he/she drew it’) and sculpsit (‘he/she carved it’).

3 Dyer, James, ‘Smith, Worthington George (1835–1917)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, at www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/61962, accessed 3 September 2015.

4 Smith, Worthington George, Midland Naturalist (1878) 1(1), p. 25.

5 The notion of a visual practice in the production of science was first formalized in the foundational work of Lynch, Michael and Woolgar, Steve, Representation in Scientific Practice, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1990. See also updated discussion in Coopsman, Catelijne, Vertesi, Janet and Lynch, Michael (eds.), Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014.

6 See the forthcoming volume Sally Shuttleworth, Gowan Dawson, Bernard Lightman and Jon Topham (eds.), Constructing Scientific Communities: Science Periodicals in Nineteenth-Century Britain, currently under review with the University of Chicago Press.

7 For a recent and important discussion of the relationship between offprints, periodicals and the production of scientific authorship see Alex Csiszar, ‘Broken pieces of fact: the scientific periodical and the politics of search in nineteenth-century France and Britain’ (2010), unpublished PhD thesis, Harvard University; and Baldwin, Melinda, Making Nature: The History of a Scientific Journal, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015.

8 For discussions of the nature of specialist journals in the nineteenth century see Allen, David E., ‘The struggle for specialist journals: natural history in the British periodicals market in the first half of the nineteenth century’, Archives of Natural History (1996) 23(1), pp. 107123.

9 There have been a few concerted efforts to address illustrations in periodicals by historians of science, media and print such as Brian Maidment, Laurel Brake, Peter Sinnema, Celina Fox and Geoffrey Belknap. Maidment, Brian, Reading Popular Prints, 1790–1870, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996; Sinnema, Peter, Dynamics of the Pictured Page: Representing the Nation in the Illustrated London News, Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998; Fox, Celina, Graphic Journalism in England during the 1830s and 1840s, New York: Garland, 1988; Brake, Laurel, The Lure of Illustration in the Nineteenth Century: Picture and Press, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008; Beegan, Gerry, The Mass Image: A Social History of Photomechanical Reproduction in Victorian London, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008; and Belknap, Geoffrey, From a Photograph: Authenticity, Science and the Periodical Press, 1870–1890, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

10 This article follows directly from the work of Anne Secord, who has demonstrated the importance of both images and networks for working-class ‘artisan botanists’ in the early nineteenth century. Anne Secord, ‘Artisan naturalists: science as popular culture in nineteenth-century England’ (2002), unpublished PhD thesis, University of London. For the relation to images and botany also see Secord, Botany on a plate: pleasure and the power of pictures in promoting early nineteenth-century scientific knowledge’, Isis (2002) 34(15), pp. 2857. For a broader discussion about the making of images for natural history see Sleigh, Charlotte, The Paper Zoo: 500 Years of Animals in Art, London: The British Library, 2016.

11 For a discussion of the relationship between natural history and collecting practices see Kohler, Robert E., ‘Finders, keepers: collecting science and collecting practice’, History of Science (2007) 45(4), pp. 428454. Recently, scholars such as Ruth Barton and Jim Endersby have also shown that for sciences like natural history, the terms ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ were problematic categories for the late nineteenth century, and that these boundaries were indistinct despite claims by some professionalizers – such as T.H. Huxley – to the contrary. See Barton, Ruth, ‘“Men of science”: language, identity and professionalization in the mid-Victorian scientific community’, History of Science (2003) 41(1), pp. 73117; and Endersby, Jim, Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

12 While Benedict Anderson usefully theorizes how imagined national communities are constructed through media outlets, such as the periodical and the newspaper, this paper demonstrates that scientific communities – particularly those within natural history – were made first in the lecture theatre and the local club or society, and were later expanded and reconstructed in print, thus making them only partially imagined. Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 2006.

13 Darnton, Robert, ‘What is the history of books?’, Daedalus (1982) 111(3), pp. 6583; Darnton, , ‘“What is the history of books?” revisited’, Modern Intellectual History (2007) 4(3), pp. 495508. For a discussion of the ‘periodical circuit’ also see Tattersdill, Will, ‘Further northward: polar exploration and the empire in the fact and fiction of the periodical press’, Chapter 4 of Tattersdill, Science, Fiction, and the Fin-de-Siècle Periodical Press, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016, pp. 132181.

14 Hardwicke published a whole range of books and periodicals between 1850 and his death in 1875, but focused on the medical and natural-history genres. Among many others, he published Popular Science Review (1861–1881), the Journal of Botany, British and Foreign (1863–1879), Hardwicke's Science Gossip (1865–1910), the Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club (1868–present) and the Midland Naturalist (1878–1882). In 1863 alone he published such monographs as Huxley's, T.H. On Our Knowledge of the Cause of the Phenomena of Organic Nature, London: Robert Hardwicke, 1863; and Edwin Lankester's Half Hours with the Microscope [1863] and an edited series with coloured plates of James Sowerby's English Botany (1863–1872). He was also a founding member, and financial backer, for two natural-history societies: the Society for Amateur Botanists (1862–1865) and the Quekett Microscopical Club (1865–present).

15 See English, Mary P., ‘Robert Hardwicke (1822–1875), publisher of biological and medical books’, Archives of Natural History (1986) 13(1), pp. 2537; and Brock, William, ‘Patronage and publishing: journals of microscopy 1839–1989’, Journal of Microscopy (September 1989) 155(3), pp. 249266, 253.

16 Huxley, op. cit. (14).

17 Letter no 3841, Darwin Correspondence Project, at www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3841, accessed 28 January 2017.

18 This regard for Hardwicke by Huxley did not stop Charles Darwin from reading and writing to Science Gossip in 1867 to discuss hedgehogs. See Letter no 5702, Darwin Correspondence Project, at www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-5702, accessed 28 January 2017. For the relationship between Huxley and popular print culture see Dawson, Gowan, Show Me the Bone: Reconstructing Prehistoric Monsters in Nineteenth-Century Britain and America, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016, Chapter 7, ‘The problems with popularization’. For a discussion of the influence of the X-Club – a dining club which would go on to support more dominant periodicals such as Nature – see Barton, Ruth, ‘“An influential set of chaps”: the X-Club and Royal Society politics 1864–85’, BJHS (1990) 23(1), pp. 5381; and Barton, , ‘Scientific authority and scientific controversy in Nature: north Britain against the X Club’, in Cantor, Geoffrey, Dawson, Gowan, Noakes, Richard, Shuttleworth, Sally and Topham, Jonathan R. (eds.), Culture and Science in Nineteenth-Century Media, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 223235.

19 English, Mary P., Mordecai Cubitt Cooke: Victorian Naturalist, Mycologist, Teacher and Eccentric, Bristol: Biopress, 1987, pp. 9697. For a description of the Society for Amateur Botanists see Ramsbottom, John, ‘The President's Address: the Society of Amateur Botanists and the Quekett Microscopical Club’, Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club, series 2 (20 September 1932) 16(98), pp. 214230.

20 For a recent discussion of the relationship between society meetings and periodicals, focusing on the Royal Society, see Fyfe, Aileen and Moxham, Noah, ‘Making public ahead of print: meetings and publications at the Royal Society, 1752–1892’, Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science (2016) 70(4), pp. 361379.

21 In this article an actor or node in the network is both human and non-human. Nodes are sometimes images, sometimes texts, sometimes collections of people in a place, whether physical or literary. As such, this article seeks to avoid using any terminology explicitly adopted by actor-network theory. Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

22 Science Gossip ran as a consecutive title between 1865 and 1893, was reconfigured between 1894 and 1902, and was finally absorbed into Knowledge in 1910.

23 Taylor, John Ellor, ‘Preface’, Science Gossip (1872) 8, n.p.

24 For a discussion of the most prestigious of these learned societies – the Royal Society – see the special issue of Notes and Records of the Royal Society (2015) 69(3). In particular see the introduction by Fyfe, Aileen, McDougall-Waters, Julie and Moxham, Noah, ‘350 years of scientific publishing’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society (2015) 69(3), pp. 227239; and Fyfe, Aileen, ‘Journals, learned societies and money: Philosophical Transactions, ca. 1750–1900’, Notes and Records of the Royal Society (2015) 69(3), pp. 277299.

25 W.G. Smith, The Gardiners’ Chronicle (28 November 1914) 56, pp. 356–357. The book in question was Cooke, Mordecai Cubitt, Handbook of British Fungi: With Full Descriptions of All the Species, and Illustrations of the Genera, London and New York: Macmillan and Co., 1871. See English, op. cit. (19), p. 134.

26 Dyer, op. cit. (3).

27 Dyer, James, ‘Worthington George Smith’, Bedfordshire Historical Record Society (1978) 57, p. 143.

28 Farber, Paul Lawrence, Finding Order in Nature: The Naturalist Tradition from Linnaeus to E.O. Wilson, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

29 Pince, Robert, ‘Cephalotaxus fortunei and Cephalotaxus drupacea’, Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener and Country Gentleman (8 December 1863) 5, p. 455.

30 Dyer, op. cit. (27), p. 146.

31 Smith, Worthington George, ‘Some remarks on the flowers of Euphorbia amygdaloides’, Journal of Botany, British and Foreign (1864) 7(2), pp. 196199. The illustration in this article is on p. 198.

32 Smith, op. cit. (25), pp. 356–357.

33 Anderson, op. cit. (12). Also see the chapter ‘Native’ in Sleigh, op. cit. (10), pp. 115–172.

34 Cooke, Mordecai Cubitt, Science Gossip (1 May 1868) 4(41), p. 104.

35 See Wood, John George, Common Objects of the Microscope, London: George Routledge and Sons, 1861.

36 Nisbett Browne did not identify himself in Science Gossip until he published an article on the Comparative size of animal hairs’, Science Gossip (5 May 1871) 9(101), pp. 108110.

37 Daston and Galison, in their seminal book on ‘objectivity’, trace a shift in the nineteenth century where scientifically valid images became dependent on ‘mechanical objectivity’ rather than co-produced images made with ‘four-eye sight’ (the collaboration of artist and observer). In this example from Science Gossip, ‘objective’ images depended on the observer, the artist and the engraver, and the reader's own expertise and access to microscopic technology. Daston, Lorraine and Galison, Peter, Objectivity, New York: Zone Books, 2007.

38 Cooke, Mordecai Cubitt, Science Gossip (1 February 1868) 4(38), p. 31.

39 See Shapin, Steven, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995, in particular Chapter 8, ‘Invisible technicians: masters, servants, and the making of experimental knowledge’.

40 Kinahan, G.H., ‘Sketches in the west of Ireland. Chapter V: antiquities of the Burren’, Science Gossip (1 April 1875) 11(124), pp. 8386, 84.

41 See Turner, G.L'E., The Great Age of the Microscope: The Collection of the Royal Microscopical Society through 150 Years, Bristol: Hilger Press, 1989.

42 Gibson, W., ‘Proposal to London microscopists’, Science Gossip (1 May 1865) 1(4), p. 116.

43 The society was named after the recently deceased John Thomas Quekett (1815–1861), the pioneering histologist, microscopist and conservator under Richard Owen at the Huntarian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons.

44 Quekett Microscopical Club, Committee Book, c/o the Natural History Museum, London, vol. 1, 17 July 1866, p. 031.

45 In fact, the Quekett Microscopical Society is one of the longest-running amateur societies, and is still operating as of 2018.

46 Taylor, op. cit. (23).

47 Quekett Microscopical Club, Committee Book, c/o the Natural History Museum, London, vol. 1, 25 January 1867, p. 51.

48 Quekett Microscopical Club, op. cit. (47), p. 58, underlining in original.

49 Quekett Microscopical Club, op. cit. (47), p. 58.

50 Quekett Microscopical Club, Committee Book, c/o the Natural History Museum, London, vol. 1, 27 February 1867, pp. 74–75.

51 English, op. cit. (19), p. 130.

52 The journal of the Quekett Club’, The Lancet (4 January 1868) 2314, p. 32.

53 Lowne, B.T., ‘On the proboscis of the fly’, Quekett Microscopical Journal (1867) 1(5), pp. 126132.

54 Lowne, op. cit. (53), ‘Description of Plate IX. – (Frontispiece)’, located between frontispiece and front matter.

55 Preface’, Midland Naturalist (1878) 1, n.p.

56 Grove, W.B., ‘The autographic process’, Midland Naturalist (1878) 1(5), pp. 132133.

57 Grove describes Pumphrey's autographic process as follows: gelatine was applied to a lithographic stone, a solution of bichromate of potash was washed over the top, the drawing was applied to the prepared stone facing down. Where ink touched the stone, the gelatine would become raised, creating a relief surface, which would then have ink applied, and prints were made from the stone. Grove, op. cit. (56), p. 132.

58 Grove, op. cit. (56), p. 133.

59 Grove, W.B., ‘A hybrid fern’, Midland Naturalist (1878) 1(2), pp. 5253.

60 Desmond, Ray, Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists: Including Plant Collectors, Flower Painters, and Garden Designers, London: Taylor & Francis, 1994, p. 439.

61 See Lowe, E.J., ‘Abnormal ferns’, Midland Naturalist (1878) 1(1), pp. 58, 5.

62 Grove, op. cit. (59), p. 53.

63 Grove, op. cit. (56), pp. 132–133.

64 Taylor, op. cit. (23), preface.

This research was conducted as part of the AHRC-funded project Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries. I would like to thank Gowan Dawson, Sally Shuttleworth, Matthew Wale, Sally Frampton and Berris Charnley for their comments on this paper, and Paul Cooper and Andrea Hart from the Natural History Museum for finding sources I would have never come across without their guidance. I would also like to thank the community of citizen scientists at www.sciencegossip.org who informed the research for this paper – and in particular ‘Jules’ and ‘Zuzi’ for taking the time to read and comment on this article.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed