“The Common Viper.” From Thirty Plates Illustrative of Natural History. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1845-47. 10 x 11 3/4 (including text). Wood engraving with original hand color. With some scattered spots. Else, very good condition.
An original antique print from an English series of fauna images apparently aimed at an adolescent, middle class, Christian audience. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was founded in 1698 as an arm of the Church of England. The Society produced not only theological books but also works on popular science, travel, biography, and fiction. These prints were available in at least four parts bound (each set had thirty plates) and were also sold individually, as each bears its price in pence, for “coloured” or “plain” prints. The animals are portrayed unthreateningly, even anthropomorphically. Below each image is text about the animal, presented with a mildly religious bent. The Society also produced an associated publication called Thirty Plates Illustrative of Natural Phenomena, which depicted various natural phenomena, including icebergs, waterspouts, and glaciers. The result is a series of delightful and attractive images.