Routledge’s Picture Book of Wild Animals
George Routledge first began publishing in England in 1836. Together with a number of family members, he released cheap reprints catering to the expanding literate population of the Victorian Era. Due to the success of these reprints, the then George Routledge and Co. opened another branch in New York. After a number of deaths and additions, the name of the company was changed in 1865 to George Routledge and Sons. While the company name continued after George Routledge’s death in 1888, it was eventually changed to Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd when it was joined with Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co in 1912 (UCL Archives, n.d.).
Published in 1885, this picture book presents an exciting look at exotic mammals from around the world. The text is easy to understand and sprinkled with descriptions of how ferocious the wild animals depicted are- a captivating read for a young person. The text is accompanied by many illustrations of the animals discussed in the book: boar, bear, big horn sheep, lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, giraffes, hippopotamuses, elephants, chimpanzees, and rhinoceroses.
The most striking feature of this (incomplete) book are the 9 full-page colored lithographs that accompany the book’s text. In addition to these stunning colored images, there are also many black and white line engravings that vary in size. The full-paged illustrations often depict dramatic fighting scenes between beasts. It is uncertain who the illustrator or illustrators were of the many images in this book. At least some images such as that of the hippopotamus, seal and thylacine can be attributed to Friedrich Specht, a German illustrator of natural history.
While all animals depicted in this book are fascinating and beautifully rendered, it is interesting to note that the now extinct thylacine is depicted in two illustrations. The last recorded thylacine was captured in 1933 and was held at the Hobart Zoo in Tasmania until its death in 1936 (iucnredlist.org). The two black and white engravings offer viewers a glimpse of the animal through the eyes of an artist who may have seen the creature in person.
To view this item, visit Special Collections in McCain Library 305. A Picture Book of Wild Animals can be found at de Grummond Stacks QL49 .P532 1885. For more information about this book, contact Ellen Ruffin at Ellen.Ruffin@usm.edu or 601.266.6543, or view this item in its entirety at the University of Southern Mississippi Digital Collections. To see more Items of the Month, click here.
Routledge and Sons archive:
Text by Amanda Myers, de Grummond Collection Specialist