A drawing of a Dodo
Second half 18th century
Pen and ink, and watercolour on paper, H. 18 x W. 12.2 cm
With text reading: “This bird was seen in Mauritius by Sir Th Herbert about 1589 – there are Remains of the bill + legs in the Museum at Oxford – but.– it is near 200 years since any specimen has been brought to England. The Draw(ing) is made from a Dutch Painting in the British Museum – (?) J. A. says that it is eaten but the flesh is oily + unpleasant –”
“The Dodo-Walgh vogel or Dod Aersen of the Dutch.”
Sir Thomas Herbert (1606-1682) was an English diplomat, writer and erudite traveler. He participated as secretary in an embassy sent by Charles I to Shah Abbas I of Persia. On the way he visited Mauritius in 1629 and illustrated and described the dodo in his book published in 1634 in London Some Yeares Travail Begunne Anno 1626 into Afrique and the Greater Asia. However, his illustration and description are rather inaccurate.
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a flightless bird from Mauritius. Its first recorded mention was by Dutch sailors in 1598 and its last accepted sighting was in 1662. In less than a century the dodo became extinct through hunting by Dutch sailors and settlers on the island and invasive species (rats and pigs) that came with the Dutch. The dodo’s appearances in life are evidenced only by drawings, paintings and written accounts from the 17th century.
The present drawing probably is after the depiction of a dodo in Johann Michael Seligmann’s famous book (incorporating George Edwards’ and Mark Gatesby’s books on birds), Sammlung verschiedener ausländischer und seltener Vögel (tab. LXXXIV), published Nuremberg, Johann Joseph Fleischmann, 1749-1776, 9 parts in 3 volumes.