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Society for the History of Natural History


Awards, Honours and Medals

SHNH Book Prize


Society for the History of Natural History Book Prize 2024

John Thackray Medal

The prize is awarded for the best book published on the history or bibliography of natural history in the preceding two years.

Closing date is 30 June 2024.

Winners receive the John Thackray Medal, instituted in 2000 to commemorate the life and work of John Thackray (1948–1999), Past President of SHNH, and an outstanding scholar of the history of science with an enviable knowledge of natural history. He served as an Officer of the Society for the History of Natural History for 24 years (1973–1997) and in 1999 became the Society’s President. He authored 30 books and articles including Guide to the Official Archives of the Natural History Museum (1998). 

Guidelines

  • Prize winners are chosen by a panel of 3 judges (all members of the Society).
  • Competition opens on 1 January 2024.
  • Nominations may be made by SHNH members, or submitted by publishers.
  • All books must be received by 30 June. Three copies of the book you wish to considered should be sent to the Chair of the Book Prize Panel.  Contact  Geraldine.Reid@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk to obtain the Chair’s name and address.
  • All books should have been published in the two calendar years preceding the year the award will be presented. For instance, works published in 2022 and 2023 will be eligible for the 2024 award.

Selection Criteria

The prize will be awarded to the book which contributes most significantly to the history of natural history. Significance will be assessed on the basis of:

  • Originality
  • Organisation and presentation of information
  • Excellence of intellectual content
  • Contribution to the literature of the field.

Submission

 Nominations must be sent to the Chair of the Book Prize Panel and include the following:

  • Your name as a nominator and your contact details.
  • The nominee’s name and contact details.
  • A supporting statement (up to 600 words) describing why the nominee should receive the award.

Download 2024 nomination form.


SHNH Natural History Book Prize 2022

Henrietta McBurney

Figure 142/Mark Catesby, ‘The Blew Jay’ and ‘The Bay-leaved Smilax’, 1722-25, Image Credit: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021

The Society is very pleased to announce that our prestigious Natural History Book Prize (the John Thackray Medal) will this year be awarded to Henrietta McBurney, for Illuminating natural history: the art and science of Mark Catesby. Publisher: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art,2021.  ISBN: 9781913107192. Henrietta McBurney is a freelance curator and art historian. She was previously curator in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle.

The book explores the life and work of the celebrated eighteenth-century English naturalist, explorer, artist and author Mark Catesby (1683–1749). During Catesby’s lifetime, science was poised to shift from a world of amateur virtuosi to one of professional experts. Working against a backdrop of global travel that incorporated collecting and direct observation of nature, Catesby spent two prolonged periods in the New World – in Virginia (1712–1719) and South Carolina and the Bahamas (1722–1726). In his majestic two-volume Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1731–43), esteemed by his contemporary John Bartram as ‘an ornament for the finest library in the world’, he reflected the excitement, drama and beauty of the natural world. Interweaving elements of art history, history of science, natural history illustration, painting materials, book history, paper studies, garden history and colonial history, this meticulously researched volume brings together a wealth of unpublished images as well as newly discovered letters by Catesby, which, with their first-hand accounts of his collecting and encounters in the wild, bring the story of this extraordinary pioneer naturalist vividly to life.

All the judges agreed that the book was outstanding, noting that it was superbly illustrated, meticulously researched and an absolutely riveting read. McBurney manages to bring Catesby to life and places him within the network of seventeenth-century naturalists, as well as within his own world of colonial America. The work adds a new dimension to our understanding of this remarkable man as McBurney delves into every aspect of Catesby’s life, with his scientific and artistic record of the plants and animals he saw during his travels in North America, to his tireless, commitment to distributing his collections and publishing his findings in several books after his return home to England. One judge commented that the book was a magnum opus pulling together all the information on Catesby, both published and unpublished, into a single volume. Another particularly liked the book’s three appendices, which they thought were extremely useful: transcripts of Catesby’s surviving correspondence, notes on the plant specimens he collected in North America, and a detailed discussion of the paper used for his drawings and books including notes on the watermarks. In addition to its scholarship, the book is beautifully produced, with 250 colour and black-and-white illustrations which are essential to her text.

For those interested in reading more about Illuminating Natural History  you can access a recent review by Robert McCraken Peck in the Society’s Journal, Archives of Natural History https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/anh.2022.0773

 

SHNH Natural History Book Prize 2021

The Society for the History of Natural History is very pleased to announce that our prestigious Book Prize (the John Thackray Medal) will this year be awarded to Dr Jordan Goodman for his Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors: An Adventurous History of Botany (Harper Collins, 2021, ISBN 978-0-00-757883-2). Dr Goodman is Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London.

It was a bumper year for nominations and no fewer than eight books were put up for the award. The Awards Panel unanimously agreed however, that Planting the World was the clear winner. The work tells the story of how Sir Joseph Banks sent collectors and gardeners overseas to find and acquire plants new to Europe. They could then be studied and grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It is a very thoroughly researched and referenced work, full of detail which, according to one judge, ‘sparkles with the untold stories of many unknown collectors’.  This was echoed by another judge who said ‘I enjoyed the fact that the book was pulling together the stories of so many different botanists and gardeners’.

This detail, as all the judges agreed, means that as well as being an impressive and satisfying monograph, the book is very useful as a reference work. One judge said they had ‘looked up a couple of things in it already!’ All in all, Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors: An Adventurous History of Botany is a very impressive book and we are very happy to award our Society for the History of Natural History Book Prize (Thackray Medal), and our congratulations, to Dr Jordan Goodman.

In speaking of the award, Dr Goodman said: ‘I am delighted to be the recipient of the John Thackray medal for the Best Book Prize of 2021 and humbled to join a long list of previous and distinguished winners. Natural history is more important now than it has ever been and the Society needs to be commended for keeping it firmly in the public eye with this award and its many other activities’.

For those interested in reading more about Planting the World you can access a recent review by Professor Arthur Lucas in the Society’s Journal, Archives of Natural History https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/anh.2021.0741

Jordan Goodman

Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors: An Adventurous History of Botany by Dr Jordan Goodman (Harper Collins, 2021).

 

The Society for the History of Natural History Book Prize

Painting by Numbers: The life and art of Ferdinand Bauer by David J Mabberley (NewSouth Publishing 2017).

The Correspondence of Dr. Martin Lister (1639-1712). Volume One: 1662-1677 by Anne-Marie Roos (Brill 2015)

The Lord Treasurer of Botany: Sir James Edward Smith and the Linnaean Collections by Tom Kennett (Linnean Society of London, 2016).

 

  • 2022
Henrietta McBurney
Illuminating natural history: the art and science of Mark Catesby (Paul Mellon Centre for
Studies in British Art, 2021).
  • 2021
Jordan Goodman Planting the World: Joseph Banks and his Collectors: An Adventurous History of Botany (Harper Collins, 2021).
  • 2019
David J. Mabberley Painting by Numbers: The life and art of Ferdinand Bauer
(NewSouth Publishing, 2017).
  • 2017
Anna Marie Roos The Correspondence of Dr Martin Lister (1639-1667). Vol.1: (1662-1667)
(Brill, 2015).
  • 2016
Tom Kennett The Lord Treasurer of Botany: Sir James Edward Smith and the Linnaean Collections  (Linnean Society of London, 2016).
  • 2015
Mary Terrall Catching Nature in the Act: Réaumur and the Practice of Natural History in the Eighteenth Century (University of Chicago Press, 2014).
  • 2014
E. C. Dickinson,
L.K. Overstreet, R. J. Dowsett
& M. D. Bruce
Priority! The Dating of Scientific Names in Ornithology
(Aves Press, 2011).
  • 2013
Alexandra Cook Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Botany: The salutary science
(The Voltaire Foundation, 2012).
  • 2012
Philip H. Oswald & Christopher D. Preston (trans & eds)
John Ray’s Cambridge Catalogue (1660)
(Ray Society, 2011).
  • 2010
The Biodiversity Heritage Library The Biodiversity Heritage Library.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library improves research methodology by collaboratively making biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community.
  • 2009
Charlie Jarvis  Order out of Chaos: Linnaean plant names and their types
(Linnean Society of London, 2007).
  • 2008
University of Cambridge The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online Project
  • 2006
Peter Marren
 The New Naturalists (2nd Edition)
(Collins New Naturalist Library, Book 82) (Collins, 2005).
  • 2005
David E. Allen
& Gabrielle Hatfield
Medicinal Plants in Folk tradition: An ethnobotany of Britain and Ireland
(Timber Press, 2004).
  • 2004
The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, USA Stuffing Birds, Pressing Plants, Shaping Knowledge: Natural History in North America, 1730-1860. Exhibition, together with web site, catalogue, accompanying educational materials, and programme of school events.
  • 2003
Clemency Fisher
The Earl & the Pussycat Exhibition and associated publication
A Passion for Natural History:The Life and Legacy of the 13th Earl of Derby
(Liverpool University Press, 2002).
  • 2002
T. G. Valance, David T. Moore & Eric W. Groves Nature’s Investigator. The Diary of Robert Brown in Australia, 1801–1805
(Australian Biological Resources Study (Flora), 2001).
  • 2001
Karl Schulze-Hagen
& Amin Geus
 Joseph Wolf. Exhibition and accompanying publication
Joseph Wolf:(1820-1899): Animal Painter / Tiermaler
(Basilisk Press, 2001).
  • 2000
Tony Rice & Natural History Museum, London
Voyages of Discovery. Exhibition and accompanying book
Voyages of Discovery
(Natural History Museum, London, 2001).