Continuing our series for Hispanic Heritage Month, we are taking a look at a beautiful little treasure of a book by Mexican author, illustrator, teacher, and naturalist Rafael Montes de Oca.
Montes de Oca worked as a naturalist on the Mexican-Guatemalan Boundary Commission and collected many plant specimens which are now in the herbarium of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (MEXU). He collected throughout Mexico, including Soconusco (Chiapas), Oaxaca, Puebla and Xalapa (Veracruz). However, it is his work with Mexican hummingbirds that gained him popularity among the scientific and artistic communities.
As early as 1860, Montes de Oca was published and recognized for his work on Mexican hummingbirds in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London and the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Montes de Oca had several influential papers published in La Naturaleza, a scientific journal dedicated to the study of the natural history of Mexico and he had even included three plates from what would eventually become our Book of the Week. In 1875, the first edition of Ensayo Ornitologico de los Troquilideos ó Colibries de Mexico was published with the descriptions of forty-eight Mexican hummingbird species, forty-six of which had beautiful accompanying illustrations. The illustrations are very BHL Blog
|From Hummingbirds and Orchids of Mexico (Courtesy of StudioBotanika).|
When he believed that it was never to be published, Montes de Oca had eventually given his watercolors and manuscript to Amor de Fournier’s grandmother, his former student. She kept it in the family until Amor de Fournier was able to get it publishing in limited editions. Most of the illustrations can be seen at StudioBotanika. Both the scientific and artistic communities should be breathing sighs of relief that these beautiful images were not lost.
Be sure to check out all of the images from Ensayo ornitologico de los troquilideos ó colibries de Mexico on Flickr and check out more select images from this and other previous Books of the Week at BHL Pinterest!
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-Gilbert Borrego, Biodiversity Heritage Library