Full title: Prodromus of the palaeontology of Victoria : or, Figures and descriptions of Victorian organic remains. At head of title: Geological survey of Victoria.

This volume on Victorian palaeontology was authored by the National Museum of Victoria's first director, Frederick McCoy. It was published in Melbourne by John Ferres, the Government Printer, 1874-1882. McCoy also published the 'Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria' (1878-1890). Prodromus means preliminary study; with these two works McCoy hoped to lay foundations for further investigation into zoology and palaeontology in the Victorian colony.

It was intended that 10 'Decades' (pamphlets with 10 plates) of the palaeontological work were published, but only seven eventuated. McCoy's disregard of financial procedures surrounding publication of the work exasperated governments. After 1870, when the museum was placed under the Public Library trustees, he struggled to acquire the government money necessary to continue publishing his 'Prodromus'. McCoy was prone to running over budget and constantly writing to fend off debtors or request more money from the Government; a situation that came to define the project's financial journey until its abrupt halt.

Ultimately, the work was not completed. Plates towards further issues were produced but the specimens depicted remain largely undescribed. Plates of fossil fish that were unpublished in McCoy's lifetime were later issued in the first Memoir of the National Museum of Victoria in 1906, after McCoy's death in 1899. The museum also holds the original artwork and unpublished plates in the Scientific Artwork & Observation Collection.

Physical Description

7 parts in 1 volume, 70 lithographic plates, some printed in colour and others with additional hand-colouring ; 27-29 cm. Hollowback. Half bound in brown leather and blue buckram. Pages various weights of wove paper. English language.


The 'Prodromus of the palaeontology of Victoria' is one of the National Museum of Victoria's most significant19th century publications.

In 1858, shortly after being appointed as the first director of the National Museum of Victoria, McCoy commenced work on the 'Prodromus of the Palaeontology of Victoria', issued by subscription from 1874 to 1882. Artists such as Ludwig Becker, Frederick Schoenfeld and Arthur Bartholomew expertly illustrated significant Australian fossils while McCoy provided specimen descriptions. The publication of the 'Prodromus' was an enormous undertaking, utilising the work of numerous artists, collectors, lithographers and publishers over an extended period, and it is recognised for its high production values according to the standards of the time.

Within the context of the Museums Victoria Library, the 'Prodromus of the palaeontology of Victoria' was central to collection development from the late 19th century, when the museum began to exchange copies of this work with other similar institutions around the world. This significantly enhanced the journal holdings of the library, and the exchange program was continued in the 20th century by the museum's journal, the 'Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria'. Exchange of the 'Prodromus' led to the issues quickly going out of print.

Most of the Museums Victoria Library copies have institutional significance as working copies for numerous scientists and curators across the museum's history.

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