Collection MSG BW003 - James Forbes Zoological Drawings

Otis the Ruffed Bustard Black-winged Stilt, Common Kingfisher, and Sarus Crane Upupa Epops Nests of the Baya with the Mahudavi Creeper The Nest of the Bottle Sparrow Bird, butterfly, and flowering branch Black bird on yellow flowering branch A variety in the Certhia Tribe A variety of the Indian Certhia A variety of the Paterah
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James Forbes Zoological Drawings

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57 leaves : colour illustrations ; 35.5 x 29.2 or smaller

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Biographical history

James Forbes was born in London and went to Bombay in 1765 as a writer for the East India Company. He remained there until 1784. A draughtsman and keen observer, he filled 52,000 manuscript pages with notes on the natural history, archaeology, and religious and social life of India; these were later digested into hisĀ Oriental Memoirs, published between 1813 and 1815. Forbes was also the author of the 1810 "Reflections on the Character of the Hundus and the Necessity of Converting them to Christianity." After his return to England he married Rose Gaylard (1788), and spent considerable time travelling Europe.

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Collection consists of 57 illustrations of birds, eggs, snakes, and plants by James Forbes chiefly to illustrate his work "Oriental Memoirs," published in four volumes between 1813 and 1815. The majority of the illustrations are either engraved or hand-drawn and then coloured, and have been cut out and mounted on paper. In many cases, a background has been drawn in and coloured or partially coloured. Approximately thirty of the images depict tropical birds, many from the Indian subcontinent, as well as some from Brazil and Australia. A number of these drawings also feature insects, particularly butterflies, and trees and flowers. Fifteen drawings depict bird eggs, including many of forest birds. The images generally contain captions by Forbes or a contemporary, identifying the subject of the drawing. Some birds are unidentified. Numerous drawings also contain species identifications or annotations in pencil by Henry Mousely, librarian of the Blacker Wood Library at McGill University during the 1920s and 1930s. These drawings are tentatively dated to approximately 1811. A note on one drawing indicates that it was originally based on drawings created during Forbes's voyages during the 1780s, then recopied in 1811. Items 44 through 57 depict snakes and reptiles and are tentatively dated to between approximately 1811 and 1818, based on a small number of drawings which are signed and dated. Many of these drawings of snakes and reptiles feature as plates in Patrick Russell's "A Continuation of an Account of Indian Serpents: Containing Descriptions and Figures, from Specimens and Drawings" (1801).

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