Joseph Wolf, a German/English animal artist, was born Jan. 22, 1820. Wolf came to London from his native Germany in 1848 and hooked up with the Zoological Society of London, where for many years he did drawings of London zoo specimens for specialized articles in such journals as the Transactions of the Zoological Society. That doesn’t sound too thrilling, but in those days, the Society had the funds to publish hand-colored lithographs and engravings in its journals, so much of Wolf’s published work is actually very appealing. We have quite a number of hand-colored Wolf prints in our collections; whenever we run across one in a journal, we try to add it to our digital collections. Above are a small sample of Wolf illustrations; they are, in order: a Balaeniceps rex, the shoe-bill of Africa (which we used for the poster of our exhibition on lithography, Crayon and Stone, in 2013); the aye-aye, that curious primate from Madagascar with an elongated middle digit; a gorilla family; a pair of Sumatran rhinos; and a hawk from Bolivia.

The gorilla lithograph was one of several that accompanied an article by Richard Owen that appeared in 1866. We displayed this piece in our 2012 exhibition, Blade and Bone: The Discovery of Human Antiquity. You can see two of Wolf’s gorilla lithographs, including the third image above, at the online version of the exhibiton.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City