For those who dare …Courageous Herpetologists

John White

Auction 10am Monday 20th March

We have a splendid collection of rare reptile publications in this auction showcasing new discoveries, documenting and classification of species, and looking at some passionate naturalists some with darn right ludicrous behaviour.

Let’s start with the most sensational story. Johann Ludwig Gerard Louis Krefft (1830-1881) was a zoologist and geologist who specialised in reptiles and snakes. During his career he corresponded with many scientists including Charles Darwin, Richard Owen and ACL Gunther (ie. he was important and respected). In May 1864, he was appointed as curator to the Australian Museum. During his career he wrote over 200 articles describing many species over the times.

In December 1873, some specimens of gold were stolen from the museum and there were rumours that Krefft was involved. The Trustees voted him out but he refused to barricading himself in his office at the museum. The door was broken down. They found Krefft strapped to his chair so they picked up his chair with Krefft still in it and dumped him out onto the street. In late in August, he was forcibly out by Edward Smith Hill. (Australian Museum) Krefft sued Hill for damages and was awarded damages and in 1875 Hill sought a retrial. Lot 101 is a Petition to against the dismissal of Gerard Krefft as curator at the Australian Museum. We have other items relating to Krefft here.

In keeping with the Australian Museum theme – James Roy Kinghorn (1891-1983) was a zoologist, museum curator at the Australian Museum for 50 years(EOAS). He was appointed the zoologist in charge of the reptiles and amphibians. Despite disliking snakes ‘he wrote extensively on taxonomy and biology’ (EOAS) and in 1929 he published Snakes of Australia. We have for sale his own copy with annotations and notes which was later signed and inscribed by Kinghorn to fellow herpetologist, David McPhee. (Lot 107)

We have some wonderful items by John Edward Gray (1800–1875) in this auction who was a naturalist at the British Museum, which was at a time when the museum was actively collecting Australian specimens. ‘Many of the common Australian animals, particularly reptiles, have scientific names given to them by Gray’ (ADB).

The first Gray item is a very good copy of The Lizards of Australia and New Zealand in the collection of the British Museum. In addition, there are 10 extra and variant lithographic plates from the book(potentially printer’s proofs) together with A Letter from Gray to P Chevallery Crease dated 1863 regarding eggs of British birds. (Lot 104).The second, is a collection of publications by John E Gray on reptiles found in the British Museum publications. There are three reptile related articles. Each article has been signed. (Lot 105)

Another outstanding work in need of mentioning is Histoire Naturelle Generale et Particuliere des Reptiles by French zoologist Francois Marie Daudin (1776 – 1803). A comprehensive herpetological work describing containing “descriptions of 517 species, many for the first time”. (Wiki) This work includes some Australian reptile references including Varanus indicus or Mangrove goanna and the Pelamis or sea snake. There are 54 beautiful plates. (Lot 111)

We cannot forget to mention theJournal of a voyage to New South Wales: animals, birds, lizards, serpents, curious cones of trees and other natural productions by John White with all the reptile plates in colour. (Lot 667)

Check out the full list of Reptile books here.

When: 10am Monday 20th March 2023
Where: C11/372-428 Wattle Street, Ultimo NSW and broadcasted online.
Bids: In the room, absentee, by phone or online. Best email to arrange.