Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Black, White, and Botanical All Over: Wild About Vintage Natural History Prints

It's no secret that I like antique botanical illustrations. So when I was shopping for a new iPhone cover, I was excited to see quite a few printed with this "Humble-bee" image. It's from The Naturalist's Library, a forty-volume set Natural History set edited by William Jardine and illustrated and published by William Home Lizars.

I first became aware of Lizars' work because I occasionally see the original plates from the book for sale on One King's Lane. I love the distinctive look of these illustrations, with the subjects standing out in vivid color against detailed black and white backgrounds.When the images are gently edited and given pristine white backgrounds, they look surprisingly modern. And due to the age of these works, they're in the public domain and all over etsy. Unfortunately, the etsy sellers often don't label the items with easily searchable terms, like "Lizars" or" William Jardin." But a persistent shopper with a penchant for natural history prints can find them.

The sunbathing fish crack me up.
"I was drawn before Poe wrote 'The Raven.'"
"No swimming in the deep end, Junior."
"Jen can't think of a caption for me."
More sunbathing fish:"Look, I got some color!"
"Acutally, I say none of those things."
"Can you guess which one of us used to be ugly?"
"Want to see my Miley Cyrus face?"
"I'm prettier than you."
Do you like what you see? Do you want to read more?

  • To read about the science of natural history in the 19th century, Carl Linnaeus and his classification system, and to see plates from The Naturalist's Library, visit the University of Otago's beautiful page devoted to all these topics. It's even organized into neat, pretty "Cabinets." 
  • For a good biograpy of William Home Lizars and a bounty of butterfly prints, visit CTG Publishing
  • For beautiful, cleanly edited versions of natural history plates, visit Restored Prints.
  • To purchase an original bookplate from The Naturalist's Library, visit Cathy's Antique Prints on etsy. Right now Cathy is offering 50% off orders of $25.00 or more with the code SAVEBIG50, so you can buy one for yourself and one to give as a Christmas present!


  1. I want to "like" your comment 10 times because it makes me feel good to know that people are reading this. :)


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P.S. All trolls will be fed to the bookworms.