Jan 18 2012: Seventeen Natural History Photographs from an Unknown Source (c.1950s)

The book that these plates were removed from had no cover or endpapers, and no title or author’s name on any of the surviving pages, so I’ve been unable to precisely identify it, except that on the internal evidence it seemed to be a 1950s era popular reference on the subject of natural history. The plates themselves, though, are both beautiful – with their heightened colours and general aura of artifice – and in one sense, at least, accurately portray the proportional relationship between species, in that its solitary mammal (the tiger) takes its place among larger numbers of birds, and still larger numbers of insects and sea-creatures. Perhaps we need to be reminded that we mammals are in no way the supreme successes of evolution that we like to believe, but rather guests on a planet whose general mass of life-forms is dominated by bacteria, insects and such remarkable (but largely invisible) presences as diatoms and the single-celled radiolaria portrayed in models by the extraordinary scientific glassmakers Leopold and Rudolf Blashka in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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