image edwards, g_gleanings_212
Image number: RS.9964
Credit: © The Royal Society
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‘The hand of a boy with a distempered skin, and a branch of the common Service Tree’




George Edwards (1694-1773, British), Ornithologist

Object type




height (print): 286mm
width (print): 220mm


Content object

   > plant
human body
   > hand


A combined medical and botanical study, showing the hand of an unnamed son of Edward Lambert holding a branch of the wild service tree (Sorbus torminalis). The work had details of a cut specimen of the fruit and its seed, with a detail of the child’s skin.

Plate 212 from chapter 2 of Gleanings of natural history, exhibiting figures of quadrupeds, birds, insects, plants, &c..., by George Edwards, volume 1 (London, for the author, 1758). The boy was the son of Edward Lambert, whose family suffered from the inherited condition Ichthyosis hystrix. This led to spiny or scaled protuberances from the skin. Described by Edwards in his accompanying text:

“In the year 1731, a Boy was shewn before the Royal Society of London, having a Distempered account whereof was printed in the Philosophical Transactions [“An Extract from the Minutes of the Royal Society, March 16, 1731, containing an uncommon case of a distempered skin”, by John Machin, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol.37, 1732-1733, pp.299-301]. In the year 1755, the same person was shewn again, in London, by the name of the Porcupine Man, with a son of his in the same condition...The figure of the hand, expressed in this plate, was taken after nature from the son.”

The plate is inscribed: “The Hand of a Boy with a distempered SKIN and the Common Servis – Sorbus torminalis se Gerald’s Herbal by Johnson Page 1471. Published AD 1756. Geo.Edwards Del: et sculp.”

Associated place