The Paper Zoo traces the varied and vital role of natural history illustration in science and art since the fifteenth century. Sumptuous images from giants of the genre – such as the birds of John J. Audubon, or the insects of Maria Sybilla Merian – accompany less familiar but equally intriguing illustrations from manuscripts, journals, and rare printed books. Together, these works represent a collection of nature's wonders. Birds, butterflies, insects, mammals, reptiles, and fish were immortalised in print; pests and curiosities were wondered at; microorganisms made monsters. Travellers brought home, on paper, exotic creatures. Scholars and hobbyists insisted upon the beauty and significance of native creatures, both wild and domesticated – even cows and clothes moths.Charlotte Sleigh shows how the styles and purposes of natural history illustration evolved, from animal alphabets to the extraordinary productions of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century naturalists and explorers recording and classifying the living world.She pays tribute to the achievements of little-known, unsung painters and colourists, alongside famous artists, in this mighty endeavour of collecting, defining and exhibiting animal life on the page. Here, too, were ironies and contradictions: many naturalists were also hunters, and the dodo and the great auk survive only in paper zoos.
Charlotte Sleigh is Reader in History at the University of Kent. She specialises in the history, literature and communication of science and is the author of several books on natural history, including Ant (2003) and Frog (2012) in Reaktion's Animal series