Edward Lear's Parrots

by Ann Sylph on

To celebrate National Poetry Day 2010 on 7 October, we are featuring some beautiful illustrations of Edward Lear.

Edward Lear may be better known now for his nonsense verse and limericks which often feature animals. However he began his career as a zoological illustrator, illustrating the parrots in the Parrot House at ZSL London Zoo, this resulted in the publication of Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots, the greater part of them species hitherto unfigured in 1832. The first plates for the book were issued in 1830 when he was still only 18.

Lithograph by Edward Lear Blue and yellow macaw. Macrocercus ararauna from  Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots, the greater part of them species hitherto unfigured published 1832
Lithograph by Edward Lear Blue and yellow macaw. Macrocercus ararauna

It was an amazing achievement, the book being a self-published, large, folio volume containing 42 detailed, hand-coloured plates. Only 175 copies were published. It was the first British publication on the subject of a single family of birds. He used a new technique called lithography resulting in prints which looked almost like watercolours, with softer lines compared to earlier prints using engraving techniques

If you would like to find out more, books about him include Edward Lear and his world by John Lehmann, Edward Lear : the life of a wanderer and The painter Edward Lear both by Vivien Noakes.

All the books mentioned can be consulted in ZSL Library, search our online catalogue at ZSL Library Online Catalogue.

Please enjoy these wonderful illustrations.

Red and yellow macaw. Macrocercus aracanga, lithograph by Edward Lear from Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots, the greater part of them species hitherto unfigured, 1832.
Red and yellow macaw. Macrocercus aracanga, lithograph by Edward Lear

Select a blog

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!

Conservation

We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.

Science

From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

Education

A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Working for Wildlife

Ever wondered what a typical day as a zookeeper looks like, or what it's like to be a videographer at ZSL? Now you can find out!

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About Magazine

Read extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

ZSL Shop

Get updates on our latest ranges, be the first to hear about special offers, and find the perfect gift for animal lovers!

Chagos Expedition

The Chagos archipelago is a rare haven for marine biodiversity. Hear from the team about our projects to protect the environments in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

Nelson's Island Expedition

ZSL Institute of Zoology researchers are embarking on an exciting fieldwork expedition to Nelson’s Island in the Chagos Archipelago. Throughout the month, the team will share their research and experiences on an uninhabited tropical island!

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.