Moses Griffith, a Welsh artist, was born of poor parents on Mar. 25, 1747. We know nothing about his early life until 1769, when, at the age of 22, he became a servant of Thomas Pennant, a much wealthier Welsh squire who had an estate in Flintshire. Griffith would remain in Pennant’s service until Pennant’s death in 1798 and would continue to live on the estate until his own death in 1819. Pennant liked to go on tours throughout Great Britain, and he would take Griffith with him to sketch the sights they saw, as well as the birds and animals they encountered. In Pennant’s A Tour of Scotland, with a Voyage to the Hebrides (1774), most of the plates are signed by Griffith. Pennant’s subsequent A Tour of Wales (1778-81) was also illustrated by Griffith, and Pennant’s Arctic Zoology (1784-7) has a number of engravings by Griffith as well.
We have, in our History of Science Collection, an extraordinary portfolio of original watercolor sketches and pencil drawings by Griffith; the drawings are mostly rather small and are loosely inserted between the pages of a three-volume notebook. Many have annotations on the reverse. Since I have only a layman’s appreciation of artistic skill (and none of my own), I passed the notebooks on to Jon Rollins, acting head of our Digital Services and an artist and designer of considerable ability himself, and asked him to choose his favorite sketches for our anniversary notice. His selection comprises our photoset for today. Who would have thought a dead turtle could be so beautiful!
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