In 1827 John J. Audubon took a break from shooting and drawing birds in North America and traveled to Newcastle Upon Tyne in northern England to visit Thomas Bewick. Bewick was a wood-engraver and a naturalist. Bewick by that time had published two masterpieces: A General History of Quadrupeds (1790) and A History of British Birds ( Land Birds, 1797; Water Birds, 1804). Audubon liked Mr. Bewick so much that he named a bird after him.
There is a new biography out about Bewick and, according to Michael Dirda — the delightful and erudite Sunday book reviewer at the Washington Post — it is a fine read. Talking about Bewick’s masterpieces, Dirda writes:
. . . .he portrayed animals with an affection, insight and accuracy that earned him the admiration of naturalists, the applause of other artists, and the devotion of the public. Children and antiquaries alike were fascinated by these volumes, which came to be viewed as zoological bibles.
We think that any man for whom the delightful Bewick’s Wren is named must have been a delightful human being. You can read Dirda’s review of Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick by Jenny Unglow here.