This scientific illustration by Arthur Bartholomew was commissioned by Sir Frederick McCoy, Director of Museum Victoria as part of his zoological research. It forms part of the much larger Prodromus Collection. Many of the original illustrations in the collection informed the production of the two-volume work The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria which was Museum Victoria's first major publication beginning in 1878. McCoy published wonderful descriptions with each image. For the Paper Nautilus, he wrote: "The individual figured was given to me by a young friend (who requested that his name not be mentioned), and was kept alive in a large tub of sea-water for a considerable time. Nothing could be more ludicrously interesting than the vigilant look-out which the creature maintained, watching suspiciously, with its large perfect eyes just peeping over the edge of the shell in which it nestled, as represented in our plate, with the arms often curled inside along with the body when at rest; at other times they hung outside or streamed in a close group in front, when the animal and shell darted backwards by shooting water out of the funnel in front of the head. Occasionally it crawled about on the bottom, head downwards, with the shell covering over its upper part. When greatly frightened it abandoned its shell and darted away with great velocity, but got back into it again when left alone. The colours varied in a few seconds from the palest pink to rich madder purple, according apparently to the will or temper of the creature."The Prodromus project followed a popular formula of the time, seeking to identify and classify the natural wonders of the 'new world'. Such publications reached a peak in popularity with the work of John Gould in England and the earlier work of James Audubon in America. In Australia, many professional and amateur publications, including Aldine's systematic studies of the colonies and Louise Anne Meredith's Bush Friends From Tasmania, contributed to the genre.The publication of the Prodromus was an enormous undertaking, utilising the work of numerous artists, collectors, lithographers and publishers, over an extended period of time. Although costly in both financial and professional terms, it was met with critical acclaim and wide popular support. Financial battles were waged and lost by McCoy, but ultimately the Prodromus has stood the test of time and remains one of Museum Victoria's finest publications. McCoy died without completing his systematic study, but even at the time few believed that 'any of us will live to witness the completion of the work, if the entire Fauna of Victoria is to be illustrated.'