Edward Donovan

1768-1837

Naturalist artist, author and collector

Edward Donovan (1768–1837) was an Anglo Irish writer, natural history illustrator and amateur zoologist.

Born in Cork, Ireland, Donovan was an avid collector of natural history specimens purchased mainly at auctions of specimens from voyages of exploration.

In 1807 he founded the London Museum and Institute of Natural History. This exhibited several hundred cases of world birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, molluscs, insects, corals and other invertebrates and botanical specimens and other exotica alongside his British collections.

 

Insects of China, India and New Holland

Donovan’s main interest was entomology and his published works included the three ‘magnificently illustrated’ (Dunbar) volumes on The Insects of China, India and New Holland, the last being dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks, and acknowledging use of his collections and library.

Donovan’s approach was to show species that had not been illustrated before, and many previously undescribed. The illustrations of tropical butterflies, moths, and other insects set against backgrounds of plants and flowers represent a significant advance in compositional style which seem likely to have influenced others in the ensuing Victorian era, in particular H. Noel Humphreys. Indeed later editions of these books were reissued in the 1840’s.