Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Drawings Of Georgia in 1736

Every so often I marvel at the way in which the Internet can allow us to see things we would never normally have seen.  Or how we can come across very specialised documents - such as the travel diary of Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck in the Department of Manuscripts & Rare Books of the Danish Royal Library.

The reason it's interesting is that it documents and records drawings of the state of Georgia in 1736 and what he encountered including plants, animals, people and their habitat.

"Top: A young water snake
Middle: (a,b,c,d) A small chestnut
Bottom: Alligator, a sort of crocodile

This is an extract from the Introduction of VON RECK'S VOYAGE. Drawings and Journal of Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck. Edited by Kristian Hvidt. With the Assistance of Joseph Ewan, George F. Jones and William C. Sturtevant. The Beehive Press, Savannah 1980.
"In 1736, Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck, then only twentyfive years old, sailed with other colonists from Germany to Georgia. One of his intentions, expressed in a letter before he left Europe, was to bring back from America "ocular proof" of what he called "this strange new world." Idealistic and enthusiastic, well educated and blessed with an amazing artistic gift, von Reck kept a travel diary, wrote separate descriptions of the plants, animals and Indians he discovered in Georgia and drew some fifty watercolor and pencil sketches of what he saw. [...]

These drawings, accompanied by von Reck's writings, are important as history, science and art. As history, they give us a new and absolutely unique glimpse of Georgia as it looked when the first Europeans settled there. [...] As science, von Reck's natural history drawings represent the earliest records of several plants and animals. [...]
The Danish site reproduces all the aquarelles and drawings in von Reck's sketch book (36,5 x 28,8 cm) and all other drawings in the collection.

I think they're amazing.

Mind you it makes you think about what people are going to make of our sketchbooks  some 300 years from now!

Below is more information about natural history and botanical artists who travelled to make observations from first hand experience.



  1. Well I marvel at how you manage to find such gems Katherine! I followed the links in your posts and viewed all of the pages on the Danish site, including larger views of many, too - and agree that Von Reck's drawings are amazing - thanks. Lesley

  2. Hmm, the first link to the sketchbook leads me to a nondescrit 404. Is it me or the link?

  3. Thanks Oona - I don't know how that gone there but it was a really weird link to Blogger!

    I've now taken it out - should work fine now

  4. Lesley - I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw them - it's so amazing that they still exist, never mind they're online for all to see.

  5. The drawings are simply beautiful Katherine. It is amazing that they do still exist...

    Many thanks.


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