Edwin Sheppard (1837–1904) [and William Ludwell Sheppard (1833–1912)]
"The Birds of Virginia, U S., Drawn from Nature," compiled 1850–55
Edwin Sheppard was the younger brother of the Richmond artist William Ludwell Sheppard. After
schooling at Bowling Green, Edwin by age seventeen was a topographical engineer with the York River Railway.
He served as an officer of engineers in the Confederate army. After the Civil War he was employed as a scientific
draftsman by the Smithsonian Institution and for twenty-five years as a draftsman of natural history specimens
by the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He illustrated The History of North American Birds in 1874,
North American Shore Birds in 1895, and drew fifty-eight portraits of fowl for American Duck Shooting in 1901.
Although the present volume of fifty-six watercolors appears to be a book, having both an index and title page—reading "By Edwin Sheppard / Philadelphia, 1850–5"—it never was published. The dates "1850–5" are those of
execution, and these watercolors are Sheppard's earliest known works.
Although only Edwin's name appears on the title page, eleven watercolors with elaborate landscape backgrounds
are minutely signed "WLS Del." (William Ludwell Sheppard Delineator). There is no doubt, however,
that Edwin painted the birds themselves. William's diary (at the Library of Virginia) for October 14, 1853,
reads, "Went to the Library and saw Audubon's Birds; I think that Eddie's are superior to some of them." On
October 30 he wrote, "Eddie stayed at home to finish a bird he had commenced in the country."
In the late 1850s William's work was noticed by one of John James Audubon's artist sons, possibly John
Woodhouse Audubon. As a result, William went to Europe in 1860, and his diary suggests that he went to recruit
a lithographer for an unspecified protect. Could it have been "The Birds of Virginia"? Such a project certainly would
have appealed to a son of John James Audubon, being conceived as the Virginia equivalent of
Audubon's The Birds of America.
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