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Two original late 19th century drawings, commissioned by Henry R. Knipe for his famous book Nebula to Man, published by J.M. Dent & Co., London, 1905

Henry R. Knipe (1854-1918), a geologist from Tunbridge Wells in Sussex, was a member of the Linnean and Geological Societies. He wrote two works on palaeontology, Nebula to Man (1905), which was written in rhyming verse, and Evolution in the Past (1912). His obituary in Geological Magazine recorded that he devoted “much time and labour to the popularization of the study of extinct animals in this country. With the aid especially of the Staff of the British Museum... he attempted to portray the animals of the past as they appeared when living, and sparing no expense, he employed the most skilled artists to carry out his plans”. The impressions of the discovered fossils rocked the world, and nowadays seem quite accurate as well.


Joseph Smit (1836-1929)


Signed lower left
Watercolour and gouache en grisaille on paper, H. 27 x W. 18.5 cm


Knipe’s rhyme for this drawing is:

“Upon Britannia’s south uplifted lands

Which stretch afar, with Francia joining hands
A large freshwater lake now wide extends...

As cemetery it serves for far and near,

Whither, as hearses, rushing currents bear
Much gruesome fright; and on its floor

Are shot the bones of many a dinosaur:
Of big Iguanodons, that far around

In upland meads and wood a home had found;
And other reptile life, that as it dies,

May chance to fall within its tributaries.
Here little creatures of the mammal race
Too find at times a final resting place.” (77-78)

Dutch zoological illustrator Joseph Smit was born in Lisse. In the 1870s, Hermann Schlegal commissioned Smit to produce lithographs of birds of the Dutch East Indies for the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie in Leiden. For most of his career, Smit produced illustrations for scientific books chronicling animals, particularly birds, around the world. Dutch born, Smit was one of the most successful Victorian natural history illustrators, contributing to works by John Gould, Daniel Elliot and Lord Lilford.


Charles Whymper (1853-1941)

‘Triassic Labyrinthodont, and Belemnite’

Signed lower right
Watercolour and gouache en grisaille on paper, H. 25 x W. 17.5 cm


Knipe’s rhyme for this drawing is:

“Browsing on weeds in shallow streams and bays,
Lung-fishes roam, as in Devonian days

A dwindling race, from whose depleted ranks
Had come the amphibian life along the banks
Of Carbon seas and streams...

Amphibian life that groped through Carbon slimes,
And grew abundant in the Permian times,
With more developed forms slow onward presses,
And many giants Newt-like now possesses.” (48)

Born in London, Charles Whymper was an illustrator and painter formally educated at the Royal Academy Schools. His works were exhibited
at the Royal Academy, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors, the New Gallery, and the Fine Art Society
in London. By 1909, Whymper published Egyptian Birds For the Most Part Seen in the Nile Valley, his own scientific collection of illustrations and descriptions. The same year, he was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors.

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