This lithographic print of Leadbeater's Possum was commissioned by Sir Frederick McCoy, Director of Museum Victoria as part of his two volume work 'The Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria' which was Museum Victoria's first major publication from 1878. The Prodromus project followed a popular formula of the time, seeking to identify and classify the natural wonders of the 'new world'. The unique attributes of Australia's marsupials and monotremes would have fascinated McCoy's curious mind, but he was working in the shadow of John Gould, the brilliant naturalist and entrepreneur, as well as other European authorities. Gould had visited Australia from 1838 to 1840, collecting specimens which would later comprise his great folio productions, A Monograph of the Macropodidae (1841-42) and The Mammals of Australia (1845-63). By this time he had illustrated every terrestrial and arboreal species from Australia then known to science. McCoy's opportunity for a significant new contribution to the scientific literature of living species came in 1867, when two small possums from the Bass River in South Gippsland were brought to him for identification. He named the new species in honor of John Leadbeater, the taxidermist who prepared these and many other specimens for exhibition Museum Victoria. Leadbeater's Possum was the only arboreal mammal in the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria and was both illustrated and lithographed by John James Wild.
The publication of the Prodromus was an enormous undertaking, utilising the work of numerous artists, collectors, lithographers and publishers, over an extended period of time. McCoy died without completing his systematic study, but even at the time few believed that 'any of us will live to witness the completion of the work, if the entire Fauna of Victoria is to be illustrated."Although costly in both financial and professional terms, it was met with critical acclaim and wide popular support. Financial battles were waged and lost by McCoy, but ultimately the Prodromus has stood the test of time and remains one of Museum Victoria's finest publications.

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Leadbeater's Possum, Gymnobelideus leadbeateri by J.J Wild (del & lith). Lithographic proof - lithographic ink and paper, 20cm x 29cm. Colour proof A finally published as Plate 91 in the Prodromus of Zoology by Frederick McCoy.

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