Early illustrations: 1797-1878

For this, the 100th post to this blog, I present 10 early illustrations of the California condor from books, academic journals, and popular magazines.

People who “saw” the California condor during the 19th century most likely saw illustrations such as those below. Try imagining what you might think of the condor based on these images.

The images are presented in chronological order. The 2 images marked * are from my library. The other 8 images are in the public domain and available from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

01 Shaw 1797
Artist: Frederick Polydore Nodder. Source: Shaw, George, and Frederick P. Nodder. Naturalist’s miscellany. Volume 9. [London]. [1797].

02 Brown 1835
Artist: Thomas Brown. Source: Brown, Thomas. Illustrations of the American ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte. Edinburgh. 1835.

03 Lichtenstein 1838
Artist: Unknown. Source: Lichtenstein, H. Beitrag zur ornithologischen Fauna von Californien nebst Bemerkungen über die Artkennzeichen der Pelicane und über einige Vögel von den Sandwich-Inseln. Physikalische Abhandlungen der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. 1838.

04 Temminck and Meiffren-Laugier 1838
Artist: Prêtre. Source: Temminck, C J, and Meiffren-Laugier. Nouveau recueil de planches coloriées d’oiseaux. Volume 1. Paris. 1838.

05 Townsend 1839
Artist: Jean Delarue (?). Source: Townsend, John K., editor. Ornithology of the United States of North America. Volume 1. Philadelphia. 1839.

06 Gray 1849
Artist: David William Mitchell. Source: Gray, George Robert. The genera of birds. Volume 1. London. 1849.

07 Frost 1850
Artist: Unknown. Source: Frost, John. History of the State of California. Auburn. 1850.*

08 Cassin 1856
Artist: Unknown. Source: Cassin, John. Ornithology of the United States. Part 1: the American vultures. United States Magazine. July 1856.

09 Taylor 1859
Artist: Unknown. Source: Taylor, Alexander S. The great condor of California. Hutching’s California Magazine. August 1859.

10 Calkins & Diaz 1878
Artist: Unknown. Source: Calkins, Norman A, and [Abby Morton] Diaz. Prang’s natural history series for children: birds of prey. Boston. 1878.*

With additional research I hope to identify more of the artists.

Of these 10 illustrations, the one that best captures the California condor is that likely to be by Jean Delarue. This image from Townsend also features nice details of condor habitat. Other images with habitat details are those by Thomas Brown and from Cassin.

The illustration from Frost looks like an Old World vulture. The illustration from Taylor showing the condor flying with a rabbit in its talons is nonsense (condors cannot grip with their talons).

It struck me that only half of the above images were published in the USA.

Some of the above images also appeared in other publications. For example, the illustration by Prêtre appeared in an unknown publication, as explained in a previous post: Orphan book illustrations.

An illustration of the California condor not shown here is that by John James Audubon. This can be seen in: Are some bird species worth more than others? Another early illustration not shown here is that of a condor chick. This can be seen in: The beginning of Baird’s catalogs of birds.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the earliest illustrations of California condors that are still with us are those by Native Americans. In a future post I will consider some of this artwork.