Australian Water Mole. (Ornithorhynchus Paradox) [Platypus]

One of the best drawn C19th illustrations of a Platypus, by the famous German natural history artist Joseph Wolf. The first description and known sighting of the platypus was from a captured animal in November 1797 by David Collins on … Read Full Description



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Full Title:

Australian Water Mole. (Ornithorhynchus Paradox) [Platypus]




Minor spots to outer sheet edge, otherwise in good condition.


Lithograph, with original hand colouring.

Image Size: 

x 105mm
Australian Water Mole. (Ornithorhynchus Paradox) [Platypus] - Antique Print from 1860

Genuine antique



One of the best drawn C19th illustrations of a Platypus, by the famous German natural history artist Joseph Wolf.

The first description and known sighting of the platypus was from a captured animal in November 1797 by David Collins on the Hawkesbury River. When the first skin sent by John Hunter, reached Europe it was thought to be a hoax and during the nineteenth century is was suspected that it lay eggs, but it was not until 1884 that final proof was obtained.

1797 First sighting and capture November

‘….. made up the whole catalogue of anumals that were known at this time, with the exception which must now be made of an amphibious animal, of the mole species, one of which had been lately found on the banks of a lake near the Hawkesbury.

1798 First published account Blumenbach

Bertuch in volume 3 of his Bilder Buch fer Kinder published in 1798, contained an illustration of the Platypus, (Plate LXIV) and inluded a description and used the classified name given by the German naturalist, Johann Blumenbach’s, which had not been published by Blumenbach at that time. Blumenbach had classified the Platypus as Ornithorhynchus paradoxus and published his description and illustration in his Abbildungen naturhistorischer Gegenstande, v.5, no.41 in 1800 two years later than Bertuch’s. Blumenbach had been unaware that George Shaw had already given it the name Platypus anatinus. However, Platypus had already been shown to be used for the scientific name for a genus of Ambrosia beetles so Blumenbach’s scientific name for the genus was used.

1799 Shaw’s description 

‘…Of all the Mammalia yet known it seems the most extraordinary in its conformation, exhibiting the perfect resemblance of the beak of a Duck engrafted on the head of a quadraped. So accurate is the similitude, that, at first view, it naturually excites the idea of some deceptive preparation by artificial means… Shaw’s description was considered until recently to be the first.

1800 Not a Hoax

Of this most extraordinary genus the first description appeared in the Naturalist’s Miscellany; but as the individual there described was the only one which had been seen…… Two more specimens, however, having been very lately sent over from New Holland, by Governor Hunter, to Sir Joseph Banks, the suspicions before mentioned are now completely dissipated.

Common names:             Platypus, duck-billed Platypus
Modern binomial name:   Ornithorhynchus anatinus
First described:                Shaw 1799
Distribution:                     SA, VIC, TAS, NSW & QLD

Reference                        The Mammals of Australia, Strahan, 2nd edition. p.36-38 ill.36,38


Josef Wolf (1820 - 1899)

Born and educated in Prussia, Wolf was apprenticed to a lithographer at the age of sixteen, but after three years he returned home to work on a series of small, detailed bird drawings. This album of drawings brought Wolf recognition from book editors and museums in Frankfurt and Darmstadt. After working as an illustrator on commission, Wolf enrolled at the Antwerp Academy in 1847 to study painting. In 1848, he moved to London where he soon established himself among the leading naturalists and wildlife artists. In 1856, Gould and Wolf traveled together through Norway to study and sketch birds including ptarmigans, golden eagles, and ospreys. Gould included Wolf's depictions of game and water birds and birds of prey in his, The Birds of Great Britain (1862-1873). Among Wolf's other great achievements were his illustrations for the London Zoological Society's The Zoological Sketches (1856-67) and D.G. Elliot's The Life and Habits of Wild Animals (1874). Wolf became the most famous ornithological artist during his time.

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