Raffles’ Ark Redrawn: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
by Henry Noltie
Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (1781–1826) is best known today as the founder of Singapore, though he was also a passionate scholar of all aspects of the Malay world. He amassed a superb collection of drawings and manuscripts during his nearly twenty years in Southeast Asia in the service of the East India Company.
Raffles’ Ark Redrawn is a lushly illustrated catalog of the 120 natural history drawings that comprise the Raffles Family Collection, acquired by the British Library in 2007.
The story of these colorful drawings of plants, birds, and mammals is a dramatic one. Chinese and French artists from the island of Sumatra composed the bulk of them during one ten-week period in 1824, in order to replace over 2,000 similar drawings, priceless Malay manuscripts, animal specimens, and living animals (including a tiger specially tamed for the voyage) that perished in a shipboard fire. Accompanied by 130 full-color illustrations, this volume captures an array of historical flora and fauna superbly reproduced for lovers of exotic plants and gardens.
Raffles’ Ark Redrawn is included in our list of New Books Available in the Library, January 10, 2011.