The Duck-Billed Platypus. ( Ornithorhynchus Anatincus)

Rare c.19th lithograph of the Platypus by the Australian female artist, Helena Forde (1832-1910). The first description and known sighting of a platypus was from a captured animal in November 1797 by David Collins on the Hawkesbury River. When the … Read Full Description

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S/N: KMOA-003-ANI-AA–221107
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Full Title:

The Duck-Billed Platypus. ( Ornithorhynchus Anatincus)




In good condition.


Hand coloured lithograph.

Image Size: 

x 315mm

Paper Size: 

x 361mm
The Duck-Billed Platypus. ( Ornithorhynchus Anatincus) - Antique Print from 1871

Genuine antique



Rare c.19th lithograph of the Platypus by the Australian female artist, Helena Forde (1832-1910).

The first description and known sighting of a 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

From Kreft, G. Mammals of Australia.

Ferguson, J. A. Bibliography of Australia Volumes 1-8, Canberra 1976 : 11248

National Library Australia: Bib ID 87090
University Library Melbourne: Call No: 599 K92
State Library New South Wales: Record Identifier 74VvrBpxqXwX
State Library Victoria: RARELTEF ; 599 K87

Harriet Scott (1830 - 1907)

Scott and her sister Helena Forde (1832-1910) (nee Scott) were born in the Rocks area of Sydney to Harriet Calcott, daughter of an ex-convict, and Alexander Walter Scott, a wealthy man who would become known in the colony as an entomologist, grazier and entrepreneur. Helena and Harriet (known as the Scott sisters) were two of 19th century Australia’s most prominent natural history illustrators and possibly the first professional female illustrators in the country. In 1846, Harriet and Helena, then aged 16 and 14, moved from Sydney to the isolated Ash Island in the Hunter River estuary with their mother, Harriet Calcott, and father, entomologist and entrepreneur Alexander Walker Scott. There, surrounded by unspoilt native vegetation and under the inspiring tutelage of their artistic father, their shared fascination with the natural world grew. For almost 20 years, the sisters lived and worked on the island, faithfully recording its flora and fauna, especially the butterflies and moths. The sisters continued to draw and paint commercially for the rest of their lives. Harriet drew botanical illustrations for the 1879, 1884 and 1886 editions of the Railway Guide to New South Wales, and they both executed designs for Australia’s first Christmas cards in 1879. Harriet died at Granville NSW in 1907 and Helena in 1910. Reference; Australian Museum.

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