Series 1 - Birds

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) Woolly-necked stork (Ciconia episcopus) Purple heron (Ardea purpurea) Indian, black, red-headed or Pondicherry vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) Indian vulture (Gyps indicus) Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) Short-toed snake eagle (Circaetus gallicus) Black-headed ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) Black stork (Ciconia nigra)
Results 1 to 10 of 121 Show all

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper


General material designation

Parallel title

Other title information

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

  • Source of title proper: Title based on content of series.

Level of description


Reference code

CA RBD Gwillim-1

Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • [between 1801 and 1807?] (Creation)
    Gwillim, Elizabeth, 1763-1807
    Madras (India)

Physical description area

Physical description

121 paintings

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

Parallel titles of publisher's series

Other title information of publisher's series

Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series

Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Hereford-born Lady Elizabeth Gwillim (née Symonds) was an artist whose watercolors of Indian birds preceded John James Audubon’s bird paintings by about twenty years and are equally detailed and natural. Married in 1784 to lawyer Henry Gwillim, who was knighted in 1801, she accompanied her husband to Madras, India (modern-day Chennai) that same year, together with her younger sister, Mary Symonds. Following the defeat of Tipu Sultan in 1799, which secured South India for the ‘Company Raj’, Henry took the position of Puisne Judge in the Madras High Court. Elizabeth and Mary were prolific letter writers and their correspondence with family and friends in England (now in the British Library MSS Eur C240) includes descriptions of Indian culture and British life in India. During her six years in India, Elizabeth painted some 200 works, many life-sized. As well as birds, she also painted botanical subjects. Elizabeth Gwillim’s drawings of birds have been compared to those of her near contemporary John James Audubon (1). Her botanical drawings were also praised in Curtis’ Botanical Magazine (Sims 1804), which noted the ‘unusual elegance and accuracy’ of her work. Elizabeth Gwillim studied botany with the eminent Madras botanist Dr Johann Rottler (1749-1836), who named a magnolia after her, Gwillimia. She used her garden as an experimental farm, testing delicate northern plants like parsley, mint, thyme and strawberries (the quintessential English fruit) in the damp heat of Madras, and collecting seeds of the local flora for commercial nurseries in Fulham and Brompton. She was hailed as ‘the patroness of the science in that Presidency’ (Sims, Botanical Magazine, 1807), an acknowledgement of her role in an enterprise whose study has to date focused on male botanists like Roxburgh and Heyne. Gwillim died in India at the age of 44 of unknown causes.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The series consists of 121 watercolour paintings of birds, created by Elizabeth Gwillim while she was living in Chennai, India (then Madras). The birds were painted from life rather than from the skins or stuffed specimens used by many artists of her day. Many paintings feature their avian subjects within a full landscape. Some paintings contain inscriptions with species identifications and, occasionally, additional observations about the birds.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Language of material

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Generated finding aid

Associated materials

Related materials


Alternative identifier(s)

Standard number area

Standard number

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Control area

Description record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules or conventions


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Language of description

Script of description


Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related places

Related genres