Written by John Cooper, Keeper Emeritus, The Booth Museum of Natural History
Booth’s valuable library contains important illustrated works in 3 large volumes: Rough Notes on the birds observed during 25 years’ shooting and collecting in the British Islands. These expensive books contain descriptions of all the species he encountered, accompanied by beautiful hand-painted pictures of the birds he chose to illustrate. However, he was not the artist; instead, he chose to ask the painter Edward Neale to prepare paintings for reproduction. Until recently very little was known about Neale, but during the last few years John Cooper, Emeritus Keeper of Natural Sciences at the Booth Museum has been digging into Neale’s background and the results of his research were recently published1.
Neale’s abilities were at some point recognised by Edward Booth who asked him to take on the task of painting plates for his Rough Notes, modelled on the cases of stuffed birds that filled his Museum. Neale was tasked by Booth to illustrate the whole of his large work and in the end produced 114 hand-coloured lithographed folio-sized plates. Booth’s collection also contains 4 watercolours by Neale, all of eagles. Before working for Booth, Neale had mostly painted game birds such as ptarmigan, pheasants, quail and ruffs, so working on many more varied species must have been a very welcome opportunity for a change.