Description of the anatomy of the ornithorhyncus hystrix... From the Philosophical Transactions. Everard HOME.
Description of the anatomy of the ornithorhyncus hystrix... From the Philosophical Transactions.

Description of the anatomy of the ornithorhyncus hystrix... From the Philosophical Transactions.

London: W. Bulmer and Co., 1802.

Quarto, 19 pp. and four large folding plates; contemporary (? original) neat quarter red roan binding.

The earliest scientific notice of the echidna, in a special author's pre-issue

The first scientific notice of the echidna: this important separately-issued pamphlet is very rare in this first issue form. The text (and engravings) would later appear, from the same type-setting, in Philosophical Transactions for 1802, but this is an example of a special separate and earlier printing made available for the author, differing in certain details, and separately paginated (1 to 19; as against 348 to 364 in the Transactions, now available online) and with a printed note on the verso of the title-page in which "Gentlemen who are indulged with separate Copies of their Communications" are asked to ensure that they don't get reprinted before the volume of Transactions is published.

The first scientific notice of the echidna: this important separately-issued pamphlet is very rare in this first issue form. The text (and engravings) would later appear, from the same type-setting, in Philosophical Transactions for 1802, but this is an example of a special separate and earlier printing made available for the author, differing in certain details, and separately paginated (1 to 19; as against 348 to 364 in the Transactions, now available online) and with a printed note on the verso of the title-page in which "Gentlemen who are indulged with separate Copies of their Communications" are asked to ensure that they don't get reprinted before the volume of Transactions is published.

Sir Everard Home's study is illustrated with four fine engraved plates by Basire of tremendous interest and some beauty, particularly the two depicting complete specimens. The first of these was based on a specimen preserved in spirits and given to Sir Joseph Banks by William Balmain in 1802, while the second followed a drawing of a Tasmanian specimen shot at Adventure Bay in Tasmania by Lieutenant Guthrie in 1790, then serving on the Providence under William Bligh. The other plates show detailed sections of the head, palate, and tongue of the echidna.

This work followed closely on the heels of Home's study of the platypus, and it was Home who first hypothesised the familial link between the two animals. The first notice of this animal was by George Shaw in 1792, but it was not until 1802 that a young male specimen was actually dissected in London, at the behest of Banks and Home. As Home notes, his work was based on a specimen brought back from New South Wales by "Belmain" (that is, surgeon William Balmain) and given to Banks. Banks also allowed the sketch of the echidna from Bligh's voyage in his possession to be copied. Home read this paper to the Royal Society in June 1802.

On the early notice of the echidna, see Penny Olsen, Upside Down World (pp. 22-29). This offprint is recorded in Ferguson, who listed an author's presentation copy in the Dr. Clifford Craig collection, "present whereabouts unknown." A copy of this work is listed in the Mitchell Library, where it is catalogued as an "extract", implying that copy was not separately issued.

Everard Home was a most interesting figure from an interesting family: his sister, the poet Anne Home, married the great anatomist John Hunter; Everard became Hunter's pupil and subsequently assistant, catalogued Hunter's collection (and probably plagiarised him into the bargain). His brother, Robert Home, the artist who emigrated to paint the Moguls in India, has been plausibly suggested by Cliff Thornton as the author of the rare and extraordinary Cook fantasy "The Travels of Hildebrand Bowman" (London, 1778).

Ferguson, 'Addenda', 354b.

Price (AUD): $14,500.00  other currencies Ref: #4504923

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