Cornhill Magazine,  7 (1863), 120–25.

Modern Taxidermy

[John G Wood]




Naturalists, Collecting, Museums, Zoology, Anatomy, Monstrosities, Amusement, Amateurism

    After criticising the conventional practices of 'defective taxidermy', observes that 'examples of true taxidermy are now to be found in Mr. Waterton's museum [at Walton Hall] and no where else' (121). Waterton's technique of 'employing the mere skin' in a hollow structure means that 'the whole of the body is set free for the purposes of the anatomist: no slight advantage in the case of a rare or choice specimen' (124), and it has a 'great zoological value' in that 'every specimen is represented in some natural and characteristic attitude' (121–22). Additionally, Waterton's technique means that 'there is no need of camphor or turpentine, whose oppressive vapours pervade our museums, and give dire and dreadful headaches to the visitors' (123). It also allows the bodies of animals to be modelled into 'amusing' and 'bizarre forms, wittily ticketed as Cancer zodiacus and Diabolus cæruleus, two ludicrous combinations of heterogeneous parts, belonging to all kinds of creatures', as well as 'Frogs, toads, and lizards [...] grotesquely transmuted into caricatures of the human form' (124). Despite suggestions that Waterton's system would be impracticable for 'professional taxidermists' (124), his methods, when used in 'judicious combination' with a Russian process that involves 'injecting certain preservative fluids' into the bodies of embalmed animals, 'would be of infinite value to science, inasmuch as the whole of the creature would be made available for the museum or dissecting-room' (125).

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