Victorian Instagram: The 19th Century’s Most Adorable Natural History Illustrations of Monkeys, Lemurs, and Other Tree-Dwelling Mammals
A furry celebration of the dazzling variousness of this world.
By Maria Popova
In 1835, three years after the death of Georges Cuvier — the influential French naturalist and zoologist regarded as the founding father of paleontology — a lavish Scottish volume set out to celebrate his legacy: The Edinburgh Journal of Natural History and of the Physical Sciences, with the Animal Kingdom of the Baron Cuvier. The 572 pages of its first volume were crowned with four dozen consummately illustrated plates of animals in their natural habitat, totaling more than 300 species, arranged in groups resembling autistic savant Gregory Blackstock’s astonishing visual lists.
Among the most marvelous are those of tree-dwelling mammals: a wild variety of monkeys and other primates, more squirrel types than one could imagine existed, a panoply of other small rodents, a fleet of bats, and even wondrous creatures like flying lemurs.
Radiating from them all is a living reminder of the dazzling variousness of this world, populated by beings so humanlike yet so very unlike us, and so very unlike one another, yet caught in the same single web of interbeing.
Complement with some marvelous antique natural history illustrations of lizards, owls, beetles, mollusks, and psychedelic fishes.
Published December 14, 2022