An interdisciplinary research project such as this one often requires scholars to reach beyond their own disciplines. Consult our glossary below to learn more about several terms you may not be familiar with.

“Animal Painter”

English naturalist, John Berkenhout first used the title “animal painter” during the mid-eighteenth century, demonstrating the popularity of animal painting in England during this time. Animal painters like Charles Collins and Peter Paillou were often skilled in numerous techniques, such as drawing, watercolour, and oil, and worked rather closely with engravers and printers who made it possible for their works to be copied and printed in published books.


Detail of White’s Golden-Olive Woodpecker, showing the acquarelle technique

In his scientific bibliography An Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology (1931), Canadian collector and zoologist Casey Wood defines paintings in White’s collection as “aquarelle.” Akin to watercolour as a style of painting, aquarelle is a technique achieved by applying very thin layers of watercolour paint to paper. A small difference between aquarelle and watercolour is that painters of aquarelle typically employ Chinese inks. They may use stencils, too, specifically, a different stencil for each colour. The style of aquarelle was first known to the ancient Egyptians, though found renewed popularity during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, during which time it was employed by European painters in renderings of flowers and small landscapes

Binomial Nomenclature

The scientific names of all species, such as Homo sapiens or Felis catus follow the convention of binomial nomenclature, which requires an organism be referred to by its genus and species names. This system of naming was popularized by Linnaeus and reflects the evolutionary history of a species. If the organism belongs to a subspecies, its subspecies name can follow the species name (e.g. Canis lupus familiaris).

Body colour

Body colour is the traditional term for gouache, an opaque watercolour paint applied as a highlight for added detail. The technique, which was used by Taylor White’s artists during the eighteenth century, is typically applied over translucent watercolour paintings as a finishing effect. Due to its chemical composition, body colour is known to chip and flake off over time.

Circuit Court

Twice yearly at Lent (late February and March) and Trinity (July and early August) judges went on circuit to hear pleas and hand down sentences at the assizes in local courts. There were six English circuits: the Home, Midland, Norfolk, Oxford, Northern, and Western, as well as the Welsh and Chester circuits.


A unique aspect of Taylor White’s collection is its use of folio-sized sheets of paper. The first English naturalist to utilize the larger folio sheets (30.5 x 48.3 cm) was the English naturalist, Mark Catesby, though it was not common practice for zoological illustration during the period. Nevertheless, while bird art, and especially works determined for publication, were more frequently represented on quarto or octavo sheets, it was only with the folio that animals could be rendered life size, which satiated contemporary demands for greater attention to detail.

Foundling Hospital

The Foundling Hospital was established on the outskirts of London in 1739 by the sea captain Thomas Coram for the “education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children.” While it did care for sick children, the term “hospital” indicated it provided “hospitality” to the destitute and abandoned. The hospital building was moved to the countryside in the 1920s and the original buildings demolished. The Foundling Hospital headquarters continued, however, to exist on the site; today, this building houses the Foundling Museum.


Animal paintings are a type of still-life art. Works of art in the still-life genre are defined by their arrangement of domestic objects and everyday items, which can be either natural–like animals, or manmade–like porcelain. According to the eighteenth-century hierarchy of genres, still-life art was of the lowest and least expensive variety, behind the more valuable portrait and history paintings. Nevertheless, animal paintings were especially popular in England, as they were pleasant to behold, relatively inexpensive, and easily sold and circulated at auction.  


Genus is the term for the taxonomic group that is slightly more general than species. It includes all species in a family that recently descended from a common ancestor and reflects the relatedness of these species. For example, Canis is a genus that includes all species of wolves and dogs, coyotes, and jackals.


A hand is a style of writing often specific to a particular person. Historically, different types of hands, or scripts, were developed and used in different contexts. For example, court hand was originally used in medieval English law courts; littera textualis was popular in Western Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and was used for literary works and university texts; and cursive chancery hand (also known as Italian hand) was developed during the Renaissance in Italy and was designed primarily for speed. Italian hand was used in correspondence, and in documents of minor formal importance, and was the hand used by elite women. Writing in these particular hands took skill. People could be hired to write or copy texts using one of these more formal and refined hands. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries handwriting manuals were commonly published, teaching people how to write and read these different hands.

Hypothetical Extinct Species

Extinct species no longer have any living members. A hypothetical extinct species is proposed to have existed in the past, based on limited evidence such as historical accounts or drawings. These species have no surviving specimens.


Naturalism consists of portraying nature (animals, landscapes, plants, etc.) and figures in a true-to-life style. While the quasi-photographic quality of naturalism aims to replicate nature with very little distortion or interpretation, scientific illustrators like those working for White certainly made formal alterations between what they saw and what they chose to represent. For instance, if a particular specimen were preserved with its eyes closed, jaw agape, and body stiffened, artists may have made efforts to portray the animal as though it were still alive.


A naturalist was an expert of natural science. It is important to remember that before the very end of the eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century, there was no specific training in natural history. Most naturalists were collectors who worked on their collections and read books about their discipline, or were trained surgeons and physicians. Men could also be part of the Royal Society and attend meetings where experts, such as anatomists, would complete experiments in front of the Fellows. 


Because England’s first academy for the fine arts was not established until 1769, collectors and naturalists like Taylor White often determined the momentum for domestic artistic production and patronage. White provided long-term economic support to artists such as Charles Collins and Peter Paillou; they were commissioned to paint White’s copious collection of animal specimens, resulting in over nine hundred watercolours with gouache.

Puisne Judge

Puisne judge was the title formerly used in English common law courts for a judge other than a chief judge. In White’s day, appointment as a Chief Judge was usually reserved for lawyers who had served in political office; puisne judges were mostly men who had devoted themselves to practicing law and they served in the lesser capacity.

Royal Society

The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, now the Royal Society, was founded by royal charter on 28 November 1660. The Society’s fundamental purpose is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. The Royal Society’s motto, Nullius in verba, is interpreted as “take nobody’s word for it.” It is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence and today its Fellowship includes some 1,600 of the world’s most eminent scientists.


A specimen is a whole organism or part of an organism that is used for scientific study or for display. They may be alive and captive, such as zoo animals, or dead and preserved. Any part of an organism may be considered a specimen. In the case of the Taylor White paintings, many of the specimens used as models were skins or taxidermy.


In relation to natural history, taxonomy is the practice of categorizing specimens into a system of classification. Taxonomy became important during the eighteenth century as more and more natural philosophers started to use systems of classification to “organize” the living world into comprehensible categories. Some authors, like Buffon, completely rejected the practice, deeming classification to be too “artificial”.


Vernaculars are languages used in everyday life by the people of a particular region. For centuries, Latin was a unifying language throughout Europe. Besides being used by the Church, it was also used for legal matters, official correspondence, and business transactions, as well as science, philosophy, mathematics, and poetry. Over time, however, vernacular languages such as English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German became more developed and began to replace Latin. The reasons for this are numerous, and still somewhat unclear. This shift in languages became especially pronounced during the eighteenth century and was strengthened in the scientific world by the advent of scientific societies and academies that encouraged the use of vernaculars.

Zoological Illustration

Distinct from animal still life, zoological and botanical illustrations are used for scientific study, whereby specimens are portrayed life size, where possible, and with great attention to detail. While zoological images are often pleasing to the eye, the primary function of these image types is not pictorial, but rather didactic and taxonomic.