Hugh Strickland, an English naturalist, was born Mar. 2, 1811. Strickland had a life-long love affair with the dodo, which had been extinct for 130 years when Strickland was born. In 1848, he published an over-size book, The Dodo and its Kindred; or the History, Affinities, and Osteology of the Dodo, Solitaire, and Other Extinct Birds of the Islands Mauritius, Rodriguez, and Bourbon. In his book, Strickland assembled a number of older paintings and drawings of the dodo, as well as descriptions of the physical remains that still survived. The earliest painting of a dodo had been made in 1626 by Roelandt Savery, a Dutch artist, and it was then in Berlin; Strickland chose to reproduce it for the frontispiece of his book (first image above). Strickland does not state who copied the Savery oil painting for him, but it is a handsome hand-colored lithograph. Lithography is not well-suited for reproducing oil paintings, so we have here essentially a new creation, a much softer, and in many ways more life-like creature, than the original. The other images above depict: the gold-stamped cover of the volume; the title-page, with a small dodo vignette; and yet another dodo lithograph. If you look up Strickland on Google, you will see a reproduction of the dodo frontispiece; it is taken from our copy, now fully available in the LHL digital collections.

Strickland was only 42 when he died. Taking a train home from a scientific meeting up north, he stopped to examine the geology of a railway cutting, heard a train coming, and stepped back onto the other track, where he was struck by another train, coming from the other direction, that he didn’t hear coming. He was not the first English railroad fatality, but the list of those ahead of him is not long.

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