Summary

This hand coloured proof by Ludwig Becker was commissioned by Sir Frederick McCoy, Director of Museum Victoria as part of his zoological research. It forms part of the much larger Prodromus Collection. Many of the original illustrations in the collection informed the production of the two volume work The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria which was Museum Victoria's first major publication from 1878. Accompanying the published plate was McCoy's description of where and how to catch the Murray Spiny Crayfish. "Very common in the Murray River, where it is caught by lowering a piece of bagging, with cords and floats to the four corners, with some flesh in the middle; this being pulled up every now and then shows three or four of the "Lobsters" feeding; a bit of meat at the end of a string suffices to catch them."
The Prodromus project followed a popular formula of the time, seeking to identify and classify the natural wonders of the 'new world'. Such publications reached a peak in popularity with the work of John Gould in England and the earlier work of James Audobon in America. In Australia, many professional and amateur publications, including Aldine's systematic studies of the colonies and Louise Anne Meredith's Bush Friends From Tasmania, contributed to the genre. The publication of the Prodromus was an enormous undertaking, utilising the work of numerous artists, collectors, lithographers and publishers, over an extended period of time. Although costly in both financial and professional terms, it was met with critical acclaim and wide popular support. Financial battles were waged and lost by McCoy, but ultimately the Prodromus has stood the test of time and remains one of Museum Victoria's finest publications. McCoy died without completing his systematic study, but even at the time few believed that 'any of us will live to witness the completion of the work, if the entire Fauna of Victoria is to be illustrated.'

Description of Content

Murray Spiny Crayfish, Euastacus armatus by Ludwig Becker. Hand coloured proof, lithographic ink, watercolour, indian ink and pencil on paper, 19cm x 26cm. Published as Plate 15 in The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria by Frederick McCoy.

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