Edward Lear (1812–1888) is best known today for his witty limericks and endearing nonsense verse. But the celebrated author of “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat” also created some of the most stunning paintings of birds and mammals during an age when many species were just being discovered and brought to private menageries and zoos throughout Europe. The Natural History of Edward Lear brings together more than 200 of Lear’s strikingly beautiful illustrations of animals, plants, and landscapes. Robert McCracken Peck sheds light on Lear’s astounding creativity, productivity, and success as an artist. He discusses Lear’s humor, extensive travels, and important place in the history of science, and shows how Lear influenced other artists from Beatrix Potter and Maurice Sendak to James Prosek and Walton Ford.
With a foreword by David Attenborough, a new chapter discussing Lear’s interest in pets, and never-before-published illustrations by Lear, this new edition offers invaluable perspectives on a beloved writer who was also one of the greatest natural-history artists of all time.
Robert McCracken Peck is senior fellow and curator of art and artifacts at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. His many books include Specimens of Hair: The Curious Collection of Peter A. Browne and Headhunters and Hummingbirds: An Expedition into Ecuador. He lives in Philadelphia.