The Prodromus Collection is the largest and most historically significant systematic scientific art collection documenting the biodiversity of nineteenth century Victoria. It contains more than 1000 individual illustrations and documents in detail the process from the field/laboratory to publication of the most ambitious scientific publication in Victoria's colonial history.

The Prodromus project followed a popular formula of the time, seeking to identify and classify the natural wonders of Victoria. Such publications reached a peak in popularity with the work of John Gould in England and the earlier work of James Audobon in America. In Australia, many professional and amateur publications, including Aldine's systematic studies of the colonies and Louise Anne Meredith's Bush Friends From Tasmania, contributed to the genre.

The Prodromus was an enormous undertaking, by Museums Victoria's foundation director, Sir Frederick McCoy. He ambitiously aimed to describe all animals native to Victoria, covering all faunal groups, except birds which had already been amply covered by John Gould. Released between 1878 and 1890, the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria included illustrations and text on 447 individual species. He commissioned many of the greatest scientific artists and lithorgraphers of the colonial period such as Ludwig Becker, John James Wild and Arthur Bartholomew. McCoy died without completing his grand project, and the collection contains a further 250 species printed but not published.

The resulting collection contains original artworks which document lost landscapes and biodiversity and capture the life cycle and habits of these amazing creatures, many now extinct. Rendered with such beauty and precision they remain both scientifically relevant and culturally significant.

Publication years for each part (Decade) were:

1878 - Decade 1 and 2

1879 - Decade 3 and 4

1880 - Decade 5

1881 - Decade 6

1882 - Decade 7

1883 - Decade 8

1884 - Decade 9

1885 - Decade 10 and 11

1886 - Decade 12 and 13

1887 - Decade 14 and 15

1888 - Decade 16 and 17

1889 - Decade 18 and 19

1890 - Decade 20

Description note:

Of the 447 species outlined in the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria, 16 were originally described by Frederick McCoy, however only 14 of these had their original descriptions in the Prodromus.

Not all species in the Prodromus were new discoveries, although a number of species first described by McCoy were included within its pages.

These were: the Giant Gippsland Earthworm, Gould's Squid, two species of stick insect, the Australian Painted-Lady Butterfly, four species of fish (the Tasselled Anglerfish, the Australian Bonito, Rainbow Cale and the Southern Hulafish), five species of snake (Little Whip Snake, Common Brown Snake, Inland Taipan, Western Brown Snake and the Two-hooded Furina-Snake-the last later identified as a juvenile Common Brown Snake), one species of lizard (Victorian Rhodona), one subspecies of lizard (Gippsland Water Dragon) and one mammal species (Leadbeater's Possum).

McCoy also described two of these species, Leadbeater's Possum (in 1867) and the Painted-Lady Butterfly (in 1868), prior to the Prodromus' publication.

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