The Tufted Duck

Posted 3 February, 2012 13:04 by Karla Baker

On the 24 December, 1895, Bartholomew printed 675 copies of the Map of Scotland to Illustrate Mr Harvie Brown’s Paper on the Tufted Duck, 1896. This highly functional map is no looker, but it is yet one more example of the interesting use Bartholomew were asked (and keen) to make of maps.

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The Mr Harvie Brown named in the title was John Alexander Harvie Brown of Dunipace (1844-1916), a Scottish gentleman naturalist. As a man of independent means he has been described as ‘able to devote his life to the traditional highland laird pursuits with rod and gun and to ornithology’. These days this may be seen as rather pejorative but Harvie Brown was no ornithological light-weight. Amongst the accomplishments which may be credited to him are the first studies of bird migration to make use of lighthouse keeper’s records; the creation, ownership and joint editing of The Annals of Scottish Natural History (still in print as the Scottish Naturalist) and the receipt of numerous honorary awards and memberships of societies.

He was also a prolific author, on occasion going to extraordinary efforts to get material for pen to paper. Unquestionably, the most astonishing was that he built his own yacht, Shiantelle, on which he sailed the Scottish coast making observations. Such energetic escapades render all the more sad that at the end of his life, after extreme ill-health, he became confined to one room in his home and weighing 25 stone.

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Harvie Brown and John George Bartholomew had previosuly worked together on the extremely impressive  Naturalists Map of Scotland (1893). This was the sort of project that John George really felt passionate about. John George would later collaborate with another naturalist, Marcel Hardy, to produce the equally striking Botanical Survey of Scotland (1906).

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The scholarly work to which this map is the illustrative accompaniment is perhaps a little dry to my non-specialist mind so for me, it is the creativity behind this map that takes centre stage. It is perhaps useful to remember that using maps in this way was a social construct borne of imagination and at this time, a relatively new phenomenon.

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