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This image is from the Public Domain Review’s essay, “The Poetry of Victorian Science,” which is as much up this site’s alley as anything on the internet. It’s an engraving of paleontologist Charles Davies Sherborn‘s study done by his father (!), showing just how many books his son had near at hand… unsurprising, since the young scientist had written the one book that essentially created zoological nomenclature as we use it today. The Index Animalium fills 9,000 pages in 11 volumes, listing the 444,000 names of every living and extinct animal discovered between 1758 and 1850.
The other things in the study also tell a bit of a story. Darwin’s portrait gazes past one of a pair of sphinxes at a bust of William Shakespeare. Below him, the Latin motto reads, “Books are friends; Nature is God,” and a copy of the Venus de Milo poses over an oil lamp, a microscope, and various naturalism specimens.
The essay in which this appears takes its name from two Victorian essays: “The Poetry of Science, or, Studies of the Physical Phenomena of Nature” by Robert Hunt, and “The Poetry of Science” by Charles Dickens. You might have heard of him.
Sherborn, the younger one, was not just an indexer. He was an expert on microfossils – the same stuff blackboard chalk is made out of.