Lankester, E. Ray | Extinct Animals


    First edition of this important popular account which influenced Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.

    The son of two naturalists (his father a public health doctor and microscopist, and his mother an author on wildflowers), Edwin Ray Lankester (1847-1929) would “reach the very pinnacle of the British scientific establishment... as a well-known, even larger-than-life, figure” (Foster, “E. Ray Lankester, Ecological Materialist”, Organization and Environment vol. 13, no. 2, June 2000).

    Lankester studied with Thomas Huxley, Ernest Haeckel, and Anton Dohrn and in 1875 was appointed chair of zoology at University College, London, where he “created a highly effective department for teaching, in which many eminent biologists of the next generation were trained. He was an effective lecturer, illustrating his descriptions of animal structures with meticulously drawn diagrams, and built up a museum and laboratory for practical work” (ODNB). In 1898 he became director of the natural history departments and keeper of zoology at the British Museum, where “he made effective changes to the museum's displays, and also tried to reform its role as a research institution” (ODNB). Throughout his career Lankester was concerned with freethinking, educational reform, and ending class privileges, and was a firm opponent of social Darwinsim. His wide social circle included Karl Marx, many of the pre-Raphaelites, Rodin, and Anna Pavlova.

    Lankester published prolifically, not only scientific articles, but also encyclopaedia entries and popular articles “in a wide range of periodicals. His most important contribution at this level was the series of articles 'Science from an easy chair' which began in the Daily Telegraph in 1907. For several years he wrote an article every week, and many of these were collected into books which sold by the tens of thousands. He thus played a major role in establishing the field of popular science writing. His work also reached a wide public through his relationship with H. G. Wells” (ODNB).

    “Lankester's book Extinct Animals (1905) became the standard popular introduction to dinosaurs and ancient animals. Intended for young readers, it was used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the source for prehistoric creatures in his classic adventure novel, The Lost World (1912), the forerunner of all dinosaur tales” (Milner, “Huxley’s Bulldog”, The Anatomical Record, vol. 257, issue 3, 1999). Doyle and Lankester knew each other well, and Doyle almost certainly modelled his protagonist, Professor Challenger, a “brilliant but bellicose evolutionary biologist and comparative anatomist” after his friend (Foster). He has Challenger broach the topic of extinct dinosaurs by referring to ‘an excellent monograph [Extinct Animals] by my gifted friend Ray Lankester’, and “among Doyle's illustrations are some of Lankester's dinosaur reconstructions, with members of the fictional Professor Challenger's expedition drawn into the pictures” (Milner).

  • ...With 218 Illustrations. London: Archibald Constable & Co Ltd, 1905.

    Octavo. Original burgundy diamond-grain cloth, bevelled edges, titles to spine and upper board and skull of a “long-jawed mastodon” (Gompotherium) to the upper board gilt, edges untrimmed. 30-page publisher’s ads at rear. Portrait frontispiece, engravings and illustrations from photographs throughout the text. Cloth lightly rubbed at the extremities, spotting to the edges of the text block and the frontispiece and title. Very good condition.