When the vendor brought in this collection of paintings rolled up in a bundle, not believing them to be worth very much, the experts at Dawson's immediately realised the excellent provenance of these pieces meant they were something rather special.

These illustrations were originally used as scientific aids within the departments of King's College London and focus on a range of subjects, from sea floor gastropods to the anatomy of the mole. They were used to explain biological function, demonstrate anatomy and distinguish between specific species.

In a pre-photography world, and even after the invention of the camera, zoological illustration allowed those studying in the likes of London or Glasgow to understand and explore the creatures of far flung places such as the Amazon and Africa.

Using illustration to explore science is in humankind's DNA. Palaeolithic cave paintings were so detailed that we can recognise species and breeds of many of the animals depicted even today. A beautiful example can be found in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave in the south of France (c.30 000 BC), in which at least thirteen different species can be seen. In another prehistoric cave (c. 15 000 BC) there exists a drawing of a mammoth with a darkened area where the heart should be. If this was the intention of its maker, it would be history's first anatomical illustration.

A century ago, drawing was taught as an essential skill for scientists, valued for communicating findings but also in enhancing observations. The practice of drawing requires a deeper level of observation. By the early 20th century, scientific discovery was well advanced to be able to dismiss zoological illustration altogether.

These illustrations will be sold as separate lots on 22nd July. All proceeds from the illustrations will be donated to King's College London. Viewings will take place on 20th and 21st July.

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