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"In Every Respect New"

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Chapter Summary

The first image of a thylacine presented to the European scientific community in 1808 was derived from an animal close to death. George Prideaux Harris sketched and classified the strange animal he observed, even though he did not have formal training in drawing or science, as did many of the artists who accompanied voyages of exploration. Harris classified them in the same genus as opossums, naming the thylacine Didelphis cynocephala (dog-headed opossum) and the Tasmanian devil Didelphis ursina (bear opossum). Harris was a lawyer with no training as a surveyor or an artist, but he had an intense interest in natural history and sketching the animals and birds he saw in Van Diemen's Land. An intriguing variation on the engraving in Transactions appears in Bilder buch für Kinder by F. J. Bertuch, a lavish children's encyclopedia of animals, plants, flowers, fruit and other aspects of the sciences and arts.

Keywords: Bilderbuch für Kinder; George Prideaux Harris; thylacine; Van Diemen's land



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