Illustrations and illustrators during the ‘Golden Age’ of palaeobotany: 1800–1840
Christopher J. Cleal, Maureen Lazarus, Annette Townsend, 2005. "Illustrations and illustrators during the ‘Golden Age’ of palaeobotany: 1800–1840", History of Palaeobotany: Selected Essays, A.J. Bowden, C.V. Burek, R. Wilding
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Three works from the early 19th century stand out as having influenced the development of scientific palaeobotany: Schlotheim’s Beschreibungen merkwürdiger Kräuter-Abdrücke (1804, printed by Becker, Gotha), Sternberg’s Flora der Vorwelt, [Volume I: 1820–1821, (Parts 1 and 2), printed by F. Fleischer, Leipzig; 1823–1825 (parts 3 and 4), printed by E. Brenck’s Wittwe, Regensburg: Volume II: 1833 (Parts 5 and 6), printed by J. Spurny, Prague; 1838 (Parts 7 and 8), printed by G. Hässe und Söhre, Prague] and Brongniart’s Histoire des végétaux fossiles (1828–1837, 1837–1838, printed by G. Dufour & E. d’Ocagne, Paris). The text of all three works contains important insights into the nature of plant fossils and how they relate to modern-day vegetation. Significantly, however, they are also among the first published works to include accurate images of plant fossils, and thus raised the awareness of the scientific community as to the importance of such fossils. Schlotheim’s illustrations were based on his own drawings and were reproduced as etchings by the well-known botanical illustrator Johann Capieux of Leipzig. Sternberg’s illustrations were based on original artwork prepared by various artists, many of whom were essentially landscape and portrait artists. The final illustrations were again reproduced as etchings, prepared by another eminent botanical illustrator Jacob Sturm of Nuremberg. Brongniart’s illustrations are quite different, being lithographs, prepared by Mme Ve Noël, L. Houloup and ‘Thierry frères’. They were based on drawings by various artists, although most were, in effect, copies of originals prepared by Brongniart.
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Often regarded as the ‘Cinderella’ of palaeontological studies, palaeobotany has a history that contains some fascinating insights into scientific endeavour, especially by palaeontologists who were perusing a personal interest rather than a career. The problems of maintaining research facilities in universities, especially in the modern era, are described and reveal a noticeable absence of a national UK strategy to preserve centres of excellence in an avowedly specialist area. Accounts of some of the pioneers demonstrate the importance of collaboration between taxonomists and illustrators. The importance of palaeobotany in the rise of geoconservation is outlined, as well as the significant and influential role of women in the discipline. Although this volume has a predominantly UK focus, two very interesting studies outline the history of palaeobotanical work in Argentina and China.