Bullock's Museum, 22 Piccadilly, No. 18 of R. Ackermann's Repository of Arts, published 1 June 1810. Aquatint from the original work by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. Wellcome Collection, kindly made available on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence (CC BY-NC). [Click on the image to enlarge it.] Text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee.

Shepherd's first published illustrations were for the Repository (Phillips 104). Here he depicts Bullock's Museum was currently housed in the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, and the colour plate follows the description in the Repository accurately and in detail. It was a collection of "natural history, antiquities, and productions of the fine arts, collected by Mr. W. Bullock, late of Liverpool." The accompanying account continues,

The arrangement of the natural history department is particularly striking and novel; the astonished visitor is in an instant transported from the crowded streets of the metropolis to the center of a tropical forest, in which are seen, as in real life, all its various inhabitants, from the huge elephant and rhinoceros to the most diminutive quadruped; and of the feathered creation, from the ostrich to the almost insect humming-bird; including the richest assemblage of the rare, singular, and splendid birds ever brought into one general view. [387]

Even in this very early work, Shepherd shows his keen eye for detail. The birds can be seen in the showcases along the wall behind the animals, while various curiosities can be glimpsed higher up, and fish, insects and so on, in cases toward the left. The Repository's reader is informed that it had been the proprietor's lifelong (and very expensive) hobby to collect these rarities — also, that he was still adding to it.

The central part might seem a strange jumble now (an elephant just behind a bear, a peacock in the tree just above it, and so on) but Shepherd and the Repository between them show here how the world was starting to open up in the nineteenth century, and how its unfamiliar creatures were already being presented, at least through the taxidermist's art, to the general public, both young and old. The account urges its readers to take advantage of the opportunity:

No person possessing the least desire of improving their knowledge of nature, should refrain from visiting this attractive exhibition: juvenile minds will there be taught a lesson beyond calculation valuable; they will read, in the great volume of creation, the work of an all-wise Providence, and the lesson will be indelibly impressed on their memories. [388]

In a few decades, the Victorians would be urging the study of Natural History, and presenting it more naturalistically, although note that even here there is an attempt to make the displays dramatic: Shepherd does not depict the boa-constrictor which is shown crushing a deer to death — a scene described as "sublimely horrible" in the text (387), but he does show a fierce-looking snake twining up one of the tropical trees, with its eye on a monkey swinging in the branches above. Again, this foreshadows the Victorians' attempts to make Natural History displays as lifelike as possible.

Related Material


Phillips, J.F.C. Shepherd's London. London: Cassell, 1976.

"Plate 35 — Bullock's Museum, 22 Piccadilly." Ackermann's Repository of Arts.... Internet Archive. From a copy in the Philadephia Museum of Art. Web. 21 November 2021.

Created 20 November 2020