Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria


Bryozoans (more popularly known as lace corals) are a phylum of modular marine invertebrates. Colonies are composed of many individuals specialised for feeding, defence or reproduction. They are both diverse and abundant in the temperate waters of Southern Australia.

A total of 309 species or varieties of bryozoans were illustrated in the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria, making them by far the largest group of animals covered in the publication. The driving force behind the inclusion of so many examples was Dr. Paul MacGillivray, a physician who devoted much of his life to their classification.

Bryozoans are rarely the focus of taxonomists, therefore the number of species covered in the Prodromus, along with the clarity with which these cryptic animals were illustrated, has given their part of the publication long-standing value.

Edward Gilks, Paul MacGillivray and James Ripper each contributed drawings of bryozoans to the project. Gilks' original ink washes are exquisitely detailed depictions of tiny specimens, though much of their quality is lost in the final lithographs. James Ripper took delight in the geometric skeletal structure of the animals and his images are characterised by clarity of line and boldness of design.

MacGillivray's plan to document more bryozoans was frustrated when the Government refused to pay McCoy to write descriptions of the animals. Many bryozoans were among the 80 plates printed but never published.

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