Oyster

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Artist Statement

 

This colorful illustration of an oyster shell appeared in the sixteenth volume of George Shaw’s The Naturalist’s Miscellany. Shaw, an English botanist, created twenty-four such volumes in all, making it the largest series on natural history at that time. He worked hand in hand with illustrator, painter, and engraver Frederick P. Nodder, the artist of this Oyster.

Each volume was “respectfully inscribed” to a person notable either in their royalty or their contributions to scientific knowledge. The sixteenth volume was dedicated to James Parkinson, Esquire, then the proprietor of the Leverian Museum. The museum was a natural history and ethnography collection, assembled by Sir Ashton Lever. Lever’s interest in collecting began with seashells, but quickly grew to include live animals and items from the voyages of famed British explorer Captain James Cook. The collection was open to the public as early as 1766 and quite popular, but sadly not enough to sustain Lever’s collecting desires. He bought items until he went bankrupt (at which point there were 28,000 specimens). Parkinson acquired the collection in 1784 and kept it open to the public for another twenty years before eventually selling the collection.

Parkinson and Shaw knew each other because it was George Shaw who catalogued the entire Leverian Museum collection. It is because of their work that we know what was contained in that monumental museum, even after its contents were scattered to the winds.

Also, oysters are delicious.