Artefact of the month August 2012 : The Coulton portfolio - drawings of vertebrate animals from the collection of Charles Hamilton Smith (1776-1859)
This collection of 55 mainly watercolour drawings on paper was presented to ZSL Library by ZSL's former Secretary, Professor McNeill Alexander on 30 January 2012. They include drawings of mammals, birds and fishes.
The portfolio was bought by Richard Calthrop Coulton in an Exeter bookshop in 1922. With one exception all the drawings are by Charles Hamilton Smith, who retired from the Army with the rank of major in 1820. He served in Jamaica in 1797-1807 and in Curacao in 1808-9, and was a member of a Foreign Office mission to the United States and Canada in 1816. He assembled a huge collection of watercolour drawings of costume, topography and natural history which he used to illustrate his books and his lectures to the Plymouth Institution. When the drawings were sold in 1860 there were about 15,000 sheets, 5,000 of them of zoological subjects. The Houghton Library, Harvard University, has several sections of the collection, including the fishes. The Victoria and Albert Museum has five volumes of sketches by Hamilton Smith in Jamaica, before he started his systematic collection. Professor Alexander failed to locate the main collections of mammals and birds (if they survive), but the 55 drawings in the Coulton portfolio seem to be a reasonably representative selection. You can see below 10 of the 55 drawings.
One drawing is by Samuel Howitt (1756-1862) depicting a Cape hunting dog Lycaon pictus and signed `Howitt'
All the drawings were numbered and listed by Professor Alexander. They are listed in our Library online catalogue
Many of our artworks are listed in our Online Catalogue
. Please note that members of the public are welcome to visit and use ZSL Library but both photographic ID and proof of address will be required on your first visit. Appointments are not normally necessary but they are needed to view most artworks as they are part of our special collections Library Regulations for Special Collections (96 KB)
A full detailed list of these 55 drawings and an article about them was published as : R. McN. Alexander (1986) Drawings of vertebrate animals from the collection of Charles Hamilton Smith (1776-1859) Archives of Natural History Vol. 13 Part 1 pp. 39-70