Summary

This scientific illustration by Dr John James Wild was commissioned by Sir Frederick McCoy, Director of Museum Victoria as part of his zoological research. This illustration 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.
John James Wild had been the artist on the 1872-76 Challenger expedition. On this floating laboratory, Wild had used dissection and the microscope extensively to describe and illustrate marine specimens. Frederick McCoy clearly saw the potential of this experience to elevate the scientific sophistication in his own publications. This water colour of a Green-lipped Abalone was unique for Wild. He rarely worked up pencil images in colour, instead waiting for a proof of the line work to complete a precise hand-coloured image, which would then act as a guide or 'pattern plate' for the master printer to finish. It is clear from instructions to the printer from his proofs that he possessed an unerring capacity to plan for the colour separations that made his images the most technically sophisticated in the Prodromus.
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. 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.'
The publication of the Prodromus was an enormous undertaking, involving many collectors, artists, 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.

Description of Content

Green-lipped Abalone, Haliotis laevigata, by John James Wild. Illustration - pencil, watercolour and ink on paper, 15 July 1887. Un-numbered illustration commissioned as part of Frederick McCoy's zoological research.

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