Scientist of the Day - Henry Eeles Dresser
Henry Eeles Dresser, an English ornithologist, was born May 9, 1838. In 1871, Dresser began issuing, in parts, a History of the Birds of Europe. John Gould had begun an identical project almost 40 years before, and it took Gould 5 years to issue all his plates. It took Dresser 10 years, and then another 15 before a final Supplement ended the project. By that time, 720 lithographs had been printed, most of them drawn by the noted Dutch illustrator, Johan Keulemans, but with a few by the likes of Joseph Wolf and Edward Neale. One might think that since Gould’s plates were large and expensive, Dresser might have tried to tap into a different market, but the Dresser plates, if not the folio size of Gould, are still what we call “large quarto”, and each plate was hand-colored, just like those of Elizabeth Gould, John’s artist.
All of the plates are exquisitely handsome. We chose five plates from Volume 5 to include here, all drawn by Keulemans, but that was just for convenience—all the volumes contain gorgeous illustrations. The birds depicted above are, in order: the Smyrna Kingfisher, the Common Roller, the Middle Spotted Woodpecker, the Eagle Owl, and the Common Bee-Eater. Even the lithographed title pages (sixth image) are unusually attractive. We have all 9 volumes of Dresser’s work, bound in sumptuous green morocco, in the History of Science Collection.
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. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to email@example.com.