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British TaxidermistsEdward Gerrard

Rare Edward Gerrard cabinet discovered

By 1 August 2023April 19th, 2024No Comments

Rare Edward Gerrard cabinet discovered

The earliest work dating from the 1870's

Discovered in France

Rare Edward Gerrard cabinet discovered

This very early cabinet dating from the 1870’s, made by Edward Gerrard Senior, was discovered by me at a provincial auction in France in 2022.

It had apparently been in the same Belgian family since it was acquired in the 1870’s and had never before been sold on the open market.

In its day, it would have been a very expensive thing to commission and it would have taken pride of place in the Belgian family’s home.

photos: Dorne Lovegrove

photos: Dorne Lovegrove

Rare Edward Gerrard cabinet With a very early ivorine round plaque

The labels tell you everything

This rare Edward Gerrard cabinet has an original paper label on the back which states “Edward Gerrard. Naturalist. 61 College Place, Camden Town, London N.W.” It also has the earliest recorded small, round ivorine label inside which is reminiscent of the ivorine labels used on early pieces at Rowland Ward.

Firstly, the name Edward Gerrard was used before the company was known as “Edward Gerrard & Sons”. Generally, this is thought to be around 1906, but I traced a reference to them using “& Sons” back to 1891 in a Trade Directory, so the first clue is that this label is, at the very least, earlier than that.

Next, the simple description of “Naturalist” was used by Edward Gerrard Senior to describe himself from the earliest time that he was active as a purveyor, dealer, and natural history authority and that was as early as between 1850-1853 when he started his family business.

Finally, the address. The Gerrard business used the Camden Studios workshops at 61 College Place from the 1860’s onwards. (As an aside, the postcode of N.W. also dates from before 1917 when the London postcodes changed. After 1917 the postcode became N.W.1)

The Ivorine Label

The information on the round disc inside the case reflects that on the paper label, except the postcode is missing, possibly because it didn’t fit, or it cost more to add the postcode.

This ivorine disc is known to be very early and is rarely seen. This ivorine disc example appears in the book by P.A. Morris “Gerrards – a Taxidermy Memoir” without a specific date, except the description is “only on very early pieces”.

See the blog post with information about the Gerrard workshops


The Death Books tell the story

After making an appointment, I went along to the ZSL Library to study the archives to see if I could find out more about the origin of the three Ibis in the cabinet.

There I saw Mr Edward Gerrard mentioned many times in the records of the “Death Books” which catalogued all deaths of zoo animals.

Mr Gerrard is seen as the recipient of many species from the Zoo (including the famous Quagga) over a long period, and right up to 1890.

What really caught my interest were the records of Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus Rubra) that Gerrard had acquired from the Zoo between 1870 – 1877, and although copyright issues prevent me from displaying the images that I photographed from those books here on this site, there’s a very strong indication at least that all three Ibis in this cabinet were sourced from the ZSL.

There appeared to be two possible time periods that these three Ibis could have been taken either all together, or in quick succession on their deaths: those years were 1870 and 1877.

Mr Edward Gerrard Senior continued his close relationship with the ZSL long after he had left their employment in 1841 and in addition to the connections that the Gerrards had with collectors and explorers, the ZSL was a continual source of specimens for the Gerrard’s business, not least because of the proximity of the ZSL to Gerrard workshops, both in Queen Street and at the Camden Studios in College Place.

So, these Ibis could have been taken from the Zoo, or they could have been obtained via an explorer or collector who had brought them back from an expedition and sold them to Gerrard, either way, the cabinet is a rare Edward Gerrard cabinet, it’s early and it’s a very rare survivor.



It also has two handwritten labels on the back which say, “Belgium 40” and “Belgium 41”. Since the cabinet is constructed in two pieces, I’d say these labels were put there to ensure that they were reunited upon arrival at their destination.
The French name of “Delafon” is crudely scratched on the back of the upper cabinet. Was this case sent abroad as part of the display for an expo maybe? There were several international exhibitions in Europe around this time, but the one that sticks out for me as a possibility in the context of the proposed dating is Antwerp in 1885. There was a Brussels Expo in 1897 but it feels slightly too late for the probable dating of the piece. If the cabinet was bought as a result of being shown at an expo in Belgium, this would make sense of the extra labels.
It’s also possible that the cabinet was commissioned alongside other pieces by a wealthy Belgian family, and it would have been very expensive in its time.
Another possibility is that the cabinet was sent to a Belgian museum with other commissioned items and later sold. This is very feasible since one of Gerrard’s specialities was supplying to museums.



The cabinet is ebonised with gold coloured inlay and fluted legs of neoclassical influence that replicated designs from Ancient Greece and Rome. This style was produced throughout the latter half of the 1700s and throughout the 1800s in England and Europe.

The fluted design is not something often found in the 20th century so this would date most pieces of this style to pre-1900. The style can be found usually on pieces such as console and hall tables, dining, and occasional furniture. The fluted leg was often produced using mahogany, but depending on origin the legs were either ebonised (English), Gilded (French) or painted (Scandinavian).

The Ibis themselves still have their bright colours, as if they’ve just died. Their beaks and legs were originally treated with a red wax preserver and this wax remains. It’s difficult to say upon looking at them if they are female or male, because the only outward indicator of sex would be comparing the size of male and female side by side, and the male is bigger.


Setting out on the trail of how and when it was made, and how it ended up in Belgium and then France has been intensely engaging and enjoyable.

I’ve discovered previously unknown facts about Gerrard and adjusted for myself some of the normally accepted and regurgitated narrative.

Following the trail went cold sometimes, but determination prevailed and the research has left me with a clearer insight into the life and work and the legacy of one of the greatest taxidermists and naturalists of Britain’s Victorian era.

These Scarlet Ibis are subject to CITES Annex II / B.


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