This hand-coloured engraving was created by James Sowerby for George Shaw's (1751-1813) Zoology of New Holland Vol. 1. A prominent naturalist, Shaw helped to establish the Linnaean Society of London, was a member of the Royal Society and worked as a keeper in the natural history department of the British Museum. He was one of the scientists to famously express disbelief at the first platypus specimen to circulate in London, writing, "Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extraordinary in its conformation" (Naturalist's Miscellany, Vol. X, 1799.) Despite the title's suggestion to the contrary, Zoology was a single volume work which started life as a joint publication with A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland by Sir John Edward Smith, also illustrated by Sowerby. However, only two parts of this joint publication were issued before it was abandoned. Plates published in the two parts were re-issued as part of the separate works on Australian zoology and botany. Published in 1794, Zoology of New Holland was the first book devoted to Australian fauna and importantly described two new species. Neither Shaw nor Sowerby had visited Australia, but worked from pickled specimens and dried skins sent home to England for the scientific community to examine, illustrate and describe. Given this situation, their work has surprising accuracy. The zoological subject matter is unusual for Sowerby, who more commonly depicted botanical and geological specimens. Described here as a Serrated Lobster, this species is now known as freshwater crayfish or Eustacus spinifer.


  • Title: Serrated Lobster, Cancer serratus
  • Creator Lifespan: 1757 - 1822
  • Creator Nationality: English
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: London, England
  • Creator Birth Place: London, England
  • Date Created: 1793
  • Physical Dimensions: w220 x h272 mm
  • Type: Image
  • Rights: Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Maria Sibylla Merian, Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Artist: Maria Sibylla Merian
  • Medium: Engraving; Ink on Paper
  • Themes: Artistic Practices, Scientific Research, Natural History, Printing, Sciences, Illustrations, Engraving, crustaceans
  • Artist biography: Prolific natural history artist James Sowerby was born in London in 1757. He studied and later taught at the Royal Academy Schools, beginning with painted miniatures and landscapes before progressing to natural history illustrations. Initially Sowerby draw and engraved botanical specimens for other naturalists, but he also worked as a naturalist in his own right. He notably illustrated the 36 volume 'English Botany' (1790-1814) by Sir James Edward Smith (founder of the Linnaean Society of London.) This title included around 2,500 illustrations both drawn and engraved by Sowerby, and it is the work that he is most well known for. Sowerby was a collector as well as illustrator of natural history specimens. He reputedly did not like to travel, and instead often obtained specimens from all over England as well as further afield through correspondence with other naturalists and enthusiasts. The resulting collection formed the basis of his own, and later his descendants', publications in botany, geology and palaeontology. Meanwhile, Sowerby’s systematic collecting methodology was influential among his peers. He possessed sound business acumen and was able to forge a living in pursuit of his interests in art and the natural world. When Sowerby died in London in 1822, his sons James De Carle Sowerby and George Brettingham Sowerby continued his work in natural history, ensuring that the Sowerby name continued to be prominent for much of the nineteenth century.
  • Artist: James Sowerby

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