Sawrey Gilpin’s elephant study – The Georgian Menagerie plods on towards publication!

Study of an elephant by Sawrey Gilpin.

Study of an elephant by Sawrey Gilpin (Yale Center for British Art)

Sawrey Gilpin [marvellous name] (1733-1807), a London-based artist, sketched this elephant at some point in the eighteenth century.

Gilpin would have been able to see a living elephant fairly easily in Georgian London. He probably drew this study from life.

I am currently preparing the manuscript and images post-copyediting.  Publication is drawing closer!

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A Georgian elephant and a doodled gentleman all in one volume

The young male elephant presented to King George and Queen Charlotte in September 1763.

The young male elephant presented to King George and Queen Charlotte in September 1763.

I have been sourcing illustrations for “Georgian Menagerie” and was fortunate enough to come across a cheap 1763 bound volume of The Universal Museum or Gentleman’s and Ladies Polite Magazine.  Inside is a wonderful engraving of the elephant presented to Queen Charlotte.  The elephant plate is one of the few in the volume that has survived being cut out and sold separately by a bookseller.

This particular edition had a hidden treasure though, one that perhaps even the bookseller was unaware of. On the rear inside leaf, somebody at some time decided to make a doodle.

The doodle is of a bewigged man, with a rather substantial chin, in a smart coat. It looks as though thedoodler got bored with their human study and decided to draw a floral pattern instead.

Somebody got bored whilst reading "The Gentleman's and Ladies Polite Magazine". Doodling in an expensive bound volume doesn't seem very polite!

Somebody got bored whilst reading “The Gentleman’s and Ladies Polite Magazine”. Doodling in an expensive bound volume doesn’t seem very polite!

I wonder if this really is an eighteenth-century doodle?  It is done in what looks to be graphite, fairly widely available in the eighteenth century as a drawing material.

The floral pattern looks like it might have easily been an observation from a Georgian chintz fabric..

Or perhaps a later owner of the volume, in a flight of fancy, adorned the book with a pseudo-Georgian touch.

In any case, in the 251 years since the book was bound, my elephant survived a “culling” and was joined by a delightful doodle.

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The manuscript is ready for post-editorial changes. Almost there!

I recently recieved comments from the editor on my manuscript and will be making changes over the Christmas break.  Not long before the book release in July.

So Christmas in the UK will be a few weeks spent writing and nipping into the British Library.

After the manuscript for “Georgian Menagerie” is completed, I’ll be doing some research for my next project; a short co-authored cultural history of the zebra.

Looking forward to Christmas cake, mince pies, and cups of tea galore as I get back down to writing again this Christmas break.

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The book finally has a title! The Georgian Menagerie: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century London

The title has been decided in the last few weeks. It will be “The Georgian Menagerie: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century London”. It feels great to finally have a title to work with and imagine as I finish up the book over the next few weeks. The book will be released in late July 2015.

I am putting together the manuscript now. Writing “The Georgian Menagerie” has required a lot of extra research to enrich the stories in the book and give a better sense of animals in London. I have found some really wonderful material. I’ll be sharing some of this in a regular schedule of blog posts from September. To write this book I have been something of an anatomist; cutting away at my thesis to extract sources and putting them into something new. It has been a long but absorbing year.

I’ll be sending my publish the manuscript in early September. From then onwards please do check this blog regularly as I will be posting bits about the book and my research on a weekly basis.

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Book Project: Exotic animals in eighteenth-century Britain (title t.b.c)

I was recently offered a book contract with the publisher I.B.Tauris to write a history of exotic animals in eighteenth-century Britain. Although the title is to be decided, the book will be a total re-working of my doctoral thesis and more recent research. It is an exciting project and I am thrilled to be writing for a larger non-fiction audience.

George Stubbs, Rhinoceros (1790-1792)Royal College of Surgeons

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The Queen’s Ass


On Saturday I saw the University of Virginia Press* proof of the essay I wrote on the zebra that belonged to Queen Charlotte.  It will be published late this Autumn (2011) in an edited collection called Afterlife of Animals: A Museum Menagerie, edited by Samuel Alberti.

This essay was great fun to write, especially since it involved delving into lewd and bawdy satires and poems about the “Queen’s Ass”.  As a whole the essay is a cultural history or biography of the zebra in Georgian Britain and explores the manner in which animals can attain celebrity (or notoriety) and become embedded in humour and satire – especially when associated with a monarch.

The full bibliographic details (to date) of the essay will be:

Plumb, Christopher. ‘The Queen’s Ass’: The Cultural Life of Queen Charlotte’s Zebra in Georgian Britain. The Afterlife of Animals: A Museum Menagerie, ed. Samuel Alberti. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, forthcoming Autumn/Fall 2011

* I especially like that the essay is about Queen Charlotte and that the publisher is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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first post

This is a new blog where I hope to share my previous research and the progress on my current projects – stay tuned!

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