George Heriot (1759-1839)
An album of watercolours of insects, fish, reptiles, birds, plants and an armadillo. [West Indies:] 1779-1780. Oblong 2 (265 x 360mm). 54 leaves, 61 original watercolour, pencil, body-colour and pen-and-ink drawings (9 drawn directly into the album, 52 on various sized sheets mounted on 46 leaves), 13 signed by Heriot dated 1779 or 1780 (two with names scratched out, the final leaf with additional inscription "in India Occid."), 56 of the drawings with one or more of the subjects identified. (Occasional marginal browning or high soiling, occasional glue mark to corners of mounted drawings.) Contemporary russia, titled "Drawings From Nature" on spine (neatly rebacked, old spine laid down), later cloth box. Provenance: J.Orr, Barrowfield (armorial bookplate).
AN ATTRACTIVE SELECTION OF HIGH QUALITY ORIGINAL DRAWINGS, FORMING A RARE 18TH-CENTURY RECORD OF THE FLORA AND FAUNA ENCOUNTERED IN THE WEST INDIES by George Heriot. There is little information available on Heriot, ESTC records a poem by a George Heriot (1759-1839), titled A descriptive poem, written in the West Indies, 1781. Humbly inscribed to the Royal Society (London: J.Dodsley, 1781). Given the correlation of dates and locations between the poem and the present album it seems likely that the two Heriots are the same person.
Two drawings provide the internal evidence for a West Indian origin for the album. The 25th sheet bears a watercolour of two Humming-birds, one sitting on the branch of a tree which is identified as "Arbor Tobagoensis" (trans. tree from Tobago). The final leaf is inscribed "Geo. Heriot in India Occid. fecit 1779" (i.e. drawn by George Heriot in the West Indies in 1779). The anatomical correctness of many of the drawings and careful 'copperplate' labelling of the various species all indicate that Heriot had had some training in the preparation of natural history drawings, but no external evidence to support this has been found. The majority of the drawings are of insects: 92 individuals on 21 leaves ("Saw Beetle", "Capricorn Beetle", "Hog Beetle", "Vegetable Fly", "Fire Fly", "Tarantula", "Various kinds of spiders", etc.). The remainder of the album includes a fine drawing of an armadillo and other drawings of reptiles ("Whip Snake", "Black Snake"); birds (9 individuals on 5 leaves: "Humming Birds Arbor Tobagoensis", "Mocking Bird", "Cocroco", etc); fish (29 individuals on 17 leaves: "Cavalle", "Grunt", "Remora or Sucking Fish", "Baracuta", "Flying Fish", "Snook", etc); and trees and leaves (14 species on 11 leaves: "Silk Cotton Tree" [2 examples], "Mangrove Tree", "Cabbage Trees", "Cabbage Trees", "Cokar nut Trees", "Groo-groo Trees", etc). George Heriot was born in Haddington, Scotland, of Scottish minor gentry, and was educated at Coldstream and at Edinburgh. After his studies he stayed in Edinburgh (1774-77), and was befriended by Sir James Grant who persuaded him to take up art. In 1777 he left for London to puruse his career, but somehow sailed for the West Indies instead. There he spent four years making notes and sketches of the islands. On his return in 1781 he joined the board of Ordnance, and was posted to Quebec. Later in his career he became Deputy Postmaster General for Quebec, but always wrote and sketched the places he visited. These amateur sketches are a useful addition to the natural history art of the West Indies by a competant artist.