This scientific illustration by James Ripper of the bryozoan Adeona cellulosa from Queenscliff (named Dictyopora cellulosa in the Prodromus) was commissioned by Sir Frederick McCoy, Director of Museum Victoria as part of his zoological research. Bryozoa, often called lace corals, are easily overlooked as they are often cryptic and appear dull-coloured to the naked eye. Although rarely the focus of taxonomists, the number of species covered in the Prodromus, some 300, along with the clarity of the illustrations, has given their part of the publication long-standing value. Their true beauty is often only revealed through a microscope. Illustrations such as this showcase their delicate, fine and ornately-sculptured calcareous skeletons. This work is part of the much larger Prodromus Collection which includes approx. 1000 illustration of specimens from colonial Victoria. Many of the oriignal 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.
Ripper's contribution was limited to the Bryozoan plates, as he worked exclusively for Paul Howard McGillivray. It is unclear whether this professional arrangement was due to anything other than geography. The arts-centric Ripper would likely have crossed paths with McGillivray at the Bendigo Institute, where the latter was both founder and an influential member. James Ripper was first employed in the lithography of the Bryozoan plates for decade five, published in 1880. Within five years this had developed to the stage where he and McGillivray co-drafted the illustrations for decade ten, but Ripper ceased drafting for the final six decades, although he continued the lithography. This may have been due to the rather simplistic nature of Ripper's drafting, or simply McGillivray's frugality in the economic climate of the late 1880s. But as has been noted, Ripper's rendering, whilst simpler than earlier works, was much larger and clearer.
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.'

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Adeona cellulosa (MacGillivray, 1869) by James Ripper. Illustration, pencil on paper, for Plate 47 in The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria by Frederick McCoy.

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