14. Richardson, John, Sir (1787-1865) 

Fauna Boreali-Americana, or, The Zoology of the Northern Parts of British America: Containing Descriptions of the Objects of Natural History Collected on the Late Northern Land Expeditions, under Command of Captain Sir John Franklin, R.N.  London: John Murray, 1829-1837.


Franklin’s gull, from John Richardson, Fauna boreali-Americana, 1829-37.


The smaller Eskimo dog, from John Richardson, Fauna boreali-Americana, 1829-37.

John Richardson was a surgeon in the Royal Navy who had accompanied John Franklin on both his land expeditions to the Arctic coastline.  In 1829 he began publishing the four volumes of his zoology of Arctic North America, drawing on specimens that he and his collaborators had collected on the expeditions, and well as specimens in other collections throughout England. 

Richardson himself compiled volume one, on quadrupeds; he collaborated with William Swainson on volume two, on birds; and he assigned the volumes on fish and insects to others.

Quadrupeds is illustrated with dramatic line etchings drawn and executed by Thomas Landseer; the animals depicted include the grizzly (but not the polar) bear, the badger, the arctic fox, and an “Esquimaux” dog.  Richardson comments that the resemblance between the domestic dogs of the natives and the wolves is the same country is “very remarkable,” especially at the northern coast of the continent.  Richardson quotes extensively from George Lyon, who was one of the first to observe an Eskimo dog team in action. 

The birds were drawn by William Swainson and executed in the relatively new technique of lithography, which Swainson championed for natural history publications.   Larus Franklinii, Franklin’s gull, is found on the shores of the large northern lakes, and is very noisy, says Swainson.  The beautifully hand-tinted plate would seem to justify its other name, Rosy gull.

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