Josiah Wood Whymper, an English wood engraver, was born Apr. 24, 1813. Whymper was a worthy heir to the British tradition of wood engraving that had been inaugurated by Thomas Bewick in the 1790s, and not surprisingly, Whymper devoted some of his attention to British birds, as had Bewick. The first three images above are from British Birds in their Haunts (1862), by Charles Alexander Johns; Whymper did all of the hundreds of engravings, after drawings by Joseph Wolf, one of the best animal artists of mid-century Victorian England. But Whymper also did the engravings for David Livingstone’s Missionary Travels (1858), images from which we featured on the Scientist of the Day for Mar. 19, 2015. The fourth image above shows a detail from one of the Livingstone engravings, the famous one of the snarling lion hunkered down on Livingstone, and you can see Whymper’s signature at bottom right. And Whymper also cut the woodblocks for Naturalist on the River Amazon (1863), by Henry Walter Bates; the fifth image shows the frontispiece to volume 1, depicting Bates encountering the glories of the tropical jungle.

Many of Whymper’s sons also became noted wood engravers, so after 1865 or so, the signature “Whymper” is no longer definitive. In addition, son Edward was the first alpinist to climb the Matterhorn, in 1865. That was quite a talented family!

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