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We have previously met George Shaw as author of the epic Naturalist’s Miscellany, published in 287 monthly installments from 1789 until the author’s death in 1813. A few years into the project, Shaw detoured to produce the similarly formatted Museum Leverianum, with five numbers in 1792-93 and a sixth in 1796.
Sir Ashton Lever, creator of the Museum that bore his name, died in 1788. But by then it was no longer his museum; the collection had been sold by lottery in early 1786. The winner was James Parkinson—no relation to Parkinson’s Disease Guy—almost by accident, as his wife had bought a ticket shortly before her death.
Parkinson maintained the Leverian Museum or Holophysicon as a public museum until 1806, when he too ran out of money and the collection had to be broken up and auctioned off. There’s a recent book by Adrienne Kaeppler tracing as much of the Leverian collection as has been possible to hunt down.
Title and Introduction (this page)
Index (this page)
Each number of Museum Leverianum contains twelve articles, each featuring a hand-tinted engraving—at least in some copies. Disappointingly, the work doesn’t show a representative selection of everything exhibited at the Museum, such as the ethnographic items collected on Cook’s voyages. Instead it is strictly concerned with animals: 44 birds, 29 mammals—and a lone reptile. (The total is 74 rather than 72 because the last two Numbers each end with a doublet.)
A dozen of so of the animals pictured in the Museum also appear in Shaw’s Naturalist’s Miscellany. Shaw didn’t hesitate to cite himself; whichever of the two was published first (1789–1813 for the Miscellany as against 1792–1796 for the Museum) will be listed among the sources for the other one.
For more about identifications, see the Taxonomy section of the introduction to Shaw’s Miscellany.
Unlike the Miscellany, the Museum always identified its artists. In order of frequency:
None of the individual Numbers are dated, but the plates provide a rough terminus post quem. Plates in the first three Numbers were dated anywhere from May 1790 to July 1792, with considerable overlap. No. IV is mostly October 1792, though a few are earlier. In No. V, dates vary between December 1792 and February 1793. The sixth and final Number, published as Volume II, is significantly later, with most plates dated 1795 or 1796.
The bottom line of the figure captions—“Publishd” with date—was generally unreadable on plates oriented sideways (caption nearest the gutter).
If you look closely, you will see the publisher rendered variously as “I. Parkinson” or “J. Parkinson”. This reflects two different scripts, apparently chosen at random:
Museum used a larger format than the Miscellany: quarto rather than octavo. To make up for it, there were no blank pages. If an article happened to end on a recto (right-hand) page, the next article begins straight-off on the following verso (left-hand) page. This in turn means that some plates were printed after the first page of an article. I have put each one at the beginning, before the Latin text.
The first five Numbers are continuously paginated, 1-248, with signatures continuous through Z and then Aa-Ee. The final Number starts anew from page 1, signature B.
The “united British states” means the United States of America. In Shaw’s time, “United States” by default meant the Netherlands.
Orthographic quirk: The Character Specificus sections have “cornibus”; the prose has “cornubus”. I think this means Shaw felt obliged to reproduce Linnaeus’s spelling in -ibus, but personally preferred -ubus.
This ebook is based on two different originals, both from scans at the Internet Archive. Nos. I through V are taken from a copy at the Wellcome Library. No. VI, as well as the frontispiece, come from a copy at McGill University. The latter includes all six parts—but only No. VI has colored illustrations, suggesting that the two parts were bound together after the fact.
Typographical errors are marked with and are listed again at the bottom of each page. The word “invisible” means that the letter or punctuation mark is missing, but there is an appropriately sized blank space.
ANGLICA ET LATINA.
OPERA ET STUDIO
GEORGII SHAW, M. D. R. S. S.
ELEGANTER SCULPTÆ ET COLORATÆ.
IMPENSIS JACOBI PARKINSON.
From the MUSEUM of the late
SIR ASHTON LEVER, Kt.
DESCRIPTIONS IN LATIN AND ENGLISH,
GEORGE SHAW, M. D. F. R. S.
PROPRIETOR OF THE ABOVE COLLECTION.
BRITANNIARUM &c REGI
CELSISSIMÆQUE CAROLETTÆ REGINÆ,
ARTIUM INGENUARUM FAUTORIBUS,
E MUSEO SUO
ET AD IPSAM NATURAM DEPICTA
SUMMA CUM OBSERVANTIA CULTUQUE
D. D. D.
KING AND QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN,
&c. &c. &c.
AS FIRST PATRONS AND SUPPORTERS OF THE ARTS AND SCIENCES,
THIS WORK IS
BY THEIR MOST GRACIOUS PERMISSION,
HUMBLY PRESENTED AND DEDICATED
MOST OBLIGED AND MOST GRATEFUL
SUBJECT AND SERVANT,
M. DCC. XCII.
text (English title page) has M, DCC. XCII,
[Although this first volume, containing Nos. I-V, is dated 1792, it cannot be earlier than 1793, because several plates in No. V are dated February 1793.]
BY / THEIR MAJESTIES, / MOST OBLIGED AND MOST GRATEFUL
MR. PENNANT, in his History of Quadrupeds, Preface, p. 8, speaks as follows:
“From the matchless collection of animals, collected by that public-spirited gentleman, Sir Ashton Lever, I had every opportunity, not only of correcting the Descriptions of the last edition, but of adding several animals hitherto imperfectly known. His Museum is a liberal fund of inexhaustible knowledge in most branches of natural history, which, I trust, will remain an honour to his spirit, as well as a permanent credit and advantage to our country.”
Mr. LATHAM, in his General Synopsis of Birds, in a note explanatory of his abbreviated mark, viz. Lev. Mus. says, “By this is meant the Museum of Sir Ashton Lever; well known to abound in the various productions of nature and art, and in which the inquisitive mind cannot fail of receiving the utmost satisfaction in every department.”
By an attentive survey of the above two works, viz. Mr. Pennant’s History of Quadrupeds, and Mr. Latham’s Synopsis of Birds, the extent and importance of the Leverian Collection will appear in the fullest manner, and will afford the most convincing proof of its unrivalled superiority in the zoological department.
MR. THOMAS TENANT informed the Committee, that he had been upwards of Twenty Years a Collector of Subjects of Natural History, and had seen all the Cabinets of Curiosities, both Public and Private, of any note in Holland, France, and Portugal; and those at Brussels, Dresden, Brunswick, and Vienna; and had also seen the Spanish Cabinet while collecting in Holland: that he had never seen any Collection more rare, more curious, or more instructive than Sir Ashton Lever’s, nor any that can be compared with it; that it exceeds all others in the Beauty and the Preservation of the numerous Articles it contains, which are better selected than any he had seen elsewhere: and he concluded with saying, that if a Sovereign Prince was to endeavour at forming such a Collection, it could not be done in less than Twenty Years, nor ever be made so extensive and complete, there being many Specimens in this, that could not be procured at any Expence.
Mr. JOHN CHURCH said, that he had amused himself many Years in collecting Natural Curiosities; that he had seen all the Collections of any note in England, and that the whole of them put together, would not form one so rare and valuable as that at Leicester-House; that the Articles there are in complete Beauty and Preservation; that he had taken great Pains to form an Estimate of their Value, ascertained by the Prices he had known similar Articles sell for at Public Sales, or otherwise; and that, according to his Calculation, the Value of the whole to be sold, is upwards of 53,000l.
Sir WILLIAM HAMILTON, Knight of the most Honourable Order of the Bath, said, that he had seen Sir Ashton Lever’s Collection of Curiosities very often, and having a particular Love for Natural History, he has had an Opportunity in different Journies to and from Naples, of seeing every Museum both Public and Private, in Holland, France, Germany, Italy, and Sicily, and that he thinks Sir Ashton Lever’s Collection is, in every respect, taking it all together, the first Collection he has seen.
BARON DIMSDALE said, that he had seen the Cabinets of Curiosities at Moscow and St. Perersburgh, and also those at Paris and Dresden, which are esteemed very curious and valuable, and that they are not altogether to be compared with Sir Ashton Lever’s Collection.
N.B. Many rare and valuable Additions have been made.
The Museum Leverianum didn’t include an index, either per-volume or comprehensive. It didn’t really need one; all told there are just 74 animals—72 plates, twelve per Number—compared with well over a thousand in the concurrently published Naturalist’s Miscellany. But that made it easy to compile an index on the fly:
|——, Small Spotted||3|
|——, Great Horned||3|
|——, Southern Brown||2|
|——, Red Breasted||4|