The Skeleton in Silhouette

Fans of the Biodiversity Heritage Library and their amazing work making valuable old zoological manuscripts freely available online might have seen that they now have an absolutely exceptional Flickr site. It’s got thousands of beautiful old zoological and botanical illustrations and is an absolute joy to browse through. I came across this book, Die vergleichende Osteologie, CH Pander and E d’Alton, published from 1821-1838 as a series of folios dealing with different parts of the animal kingdom, albeit with some quirky taxonomy compared to today. It’s a pretty cool old example of an art style that’s frequently used by palaeontologists today, ie. silhoutted skeletons showing the soft tissue outlines around the bones. I’d love to know how common this kind of illustration style was at the time! Here’s just a couple of samples of some of my favourites, but there’s many more in the book, so go check out the Flickr page!

Pangolin! (Manis crassicaudata)

Coatimundi! (Nasua nasua)

Capybara! (Hydrochoerus hydrachaeris)

Nine-banded armadillo! (Dasypus novemcinctus)

Dugong! (Dugong dugon)

Colugo! (Galeopterus variegata)

Emu! (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

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