Special Collections

Zoological Illustration in the Twentieth Century

Leonard Baskin, 1922-2000.
Diptera: A Book of Flies & Other Insects; etchings by Leonard Baskin. Leeds, Mass.: Gehenna Press, 1983.

Exploring a long-held interest in natural history, Leonard Baskin embarked upon a project to record flying insects in near-microscopic detail. Diptera is the order that comprises all insects with one pair of wings, including mosquitoes and flies. The illustrations are colored etchings. Many of Baskin's plates were meticulously inked "à la poupée," an antique French technique that employed multiple colored inks.

Alan James Robinson.
Songbirds: Fifteen Etchings Hand-watercolored. Easthampton, Mass.: Cheloniidae Press, 1983.

Robinson is a well-known wildlife artist and printmaker. His deep interest in nature is reflected in the accuracy of his bird portraits. He is the owner, designer and illustrator for the award-winning Press of the Sea Turtle, established in 1979.


Alan James Robinson.
Cheloniidae: Sea Turtles: Etchings and Wood Engravings. Easthampton, Mass.: Cheloniidæ Press, 1987.

This work brings together exquisite technique and scientific accuracy. The artist's choices in paper and printing technique add to the liveliness of the image.


Modern Bestiaries

Bestiaries or "books of beasts" are illustrated volumes that describe various animals and birds. They were popular in the Middle Ages in manuscripts and books that paired each animal with a moral lesson. These modern bestiaries match images by well-known graphic artists with poetry or prose.

Alan James Robinson.
An Odd Bestiary, or, A Compendium of Instructive and Entertaining Descriptions of Animals. Easthampton, Mass.: Cheloniidae Press, 1982.

Richard Wagener.
Zebra Noise: with Flatted 7th. Berkeley: Peter Koch, Printer, 1998.

< William Jay Smith.
Birds and Beasts; woodcuts by Jacques Hnizdovsky. Boston: D.R. Godine, 1990.

John Graves, 1920-
Self-portrait, with Birds; wood engravings by John DePol. Dallas: Chama Press, 1991.

Pencil sketch of owl by John DePol.

John DePol (1913-2004) was an artist for more than seventy years. He is considered to be one of the great exemplars in the field of wood engraving, having produced thousands of images for commercial graphic design as well as for private presses and fine printers. He worked with many private presses. His work is held by many libraries and museums.

The University of Delaware is the repository for the papers of John DePol.


bird collage

Birdsongs: Eleven New Poems by Toby Olson; with illustration by John Digby. Mount Horeb, Wis.: Perishable Press, 1980.

Diary with sketch of bird by John Digby.

John Digby, born in London in 1938, is a poet, artist and publisher with a continuing interest in natural history subjects. Since his first volume of poetry was published in 1974, Digby has been involved in the design and illustration of his books. In his earliest publications he also began to work with black and white collage, which eventually became his primary means of artistic expression.

Digby produced a series of fifty bird collages using paper from nineteenth century books and magazines. Some of these were used as illustrations for the Perishable Press edition of Birdsongs: Eleven New Poems by Toby Olson, published in 1980.

The University of Delaware holds the papers of John Digby.

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Last modified: 02/28/07