Date of Award
Master of Arts
Christine Evans, Max Yela
colored plates, natural history, natural science, print culture, publishing history, zoology
Natural history grew in popularity in Britain among the middle class during the nineteenth century in large part due to the proliferation of cheap books and periodicals that featured illustrations of plants and animals. Prior to this period, books that featured hand-colored plates were considered a luxury that only the very wealthy could afford. Some nineteenth century naturalists like John James Audubon, continued to exclusively produce expensive folio books marketed to the upper class, but many others saw an opportunity to make more money by appealing to a popular audience by creating smaller works sold at a fraction of the price of traditional natural history works.
This thesis is a close examination of the publishing history of The Naturalist’s Library, a profusely illustrated forty-volume book series published in Edinburgh from 1833-1843 by William Home Lizars and Sir William Jardine. Each volume cost six shillings a piece and contained over thirty-five hand-colored steel engravings of animals. While six shillings was much cheaper than other illustrated natural history works at the time, it still restricted the audience to middle-class consumers. Lizars and Jardine were able to produce high-quality books at low prices through strategically using new technologies, scaling up their operations, and relying on the cheap labor of women hand coloring the illustrations. The immense popularity of the series contributed to the spread of scientific information in the lower classes of British society.
Finn, Sarah, "Hand-Colored Zoological Illustrations for “All Classes” of British Society: the Publishing History of the Naturalist’s Library, 1833-1843" (2022). Theses and Dissertations. 2888.
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