Mackintosh Library Collections: Natural History
The Natural History collection features several volumes on the natural world, many with beautiful hand-coloured plates of flora and fauna both British and exotic. The collection reflects some of the cultural preoccupations of the Victorian and Edwardian years, such as Pteridomania (or ‘Fern-Fever’) in which the fern plant became ubiquitous in pottery, glass, metal, textiles, and sculpture.
- Browse the full collection in our catalogue
- Read feature articles on our blog
- Read our subject guide on Ecology & Sustainability
Drawing from Nature
Drawing from life and from nature were once important parts of any art school curriculum, and materials to support these activities were purchased from very early on in GSA library’s history. Students would draw from botanical specimens, examining their structure in order to systematise their elements for decoration and ornament in a process known as ‘conventionalisation’. They also studied live animals, including poultry, horses from local tram depots, and even camels, elephants and zebras which were brought from the local zoo to a special Animal Room within the Mackintosh Building.
Particularly influential within the Glasgow context were the teachings of James Rennie (who had graduated with an MA from the University of Glasgow before becoming Professor of natural history and zoology at King’s College, London from 1830 to 1834) and John Hutton Balfour (who become Professor of botany at the University of Glasgow in 1841, then Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh from 1845). Both are featured in our collection.
Our Arts Pedagogy Collection also contains many instructional volumes on the drawing and painting of plants and animals.
We have digitised a selection of volumes from this collection, which you can view online or download.