Victorian Booth Collection of Taxidermy

Victorian Taxidermy

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The Booth Collection

Founded by Edward Thomas Booth, naturalist and keen on all aspects of Natural History. He was born in 1840, to a moneyed family. Early years were spent in education in Brighton and then on to Trinity College Cambridge where is studied only intermittently, as finally asked to leave having spent more time on the fens shooting and observing birds rather than studying.


View outside the Booth Museum, Dyke Road, Brighton.

Edward returned to Brighton in 1865 and he created the Booth Collection in 1874. The taxidermy museum was dubbed “home of the dioramas". Being one of the first exponents of observing birds in their natural habitat and then re-creating this as close as practical possible.
His detailed notes and sketches bear witness to this detail. Booth is one of the finest Victorian Natural History bird taxidermy collections in the UK.
Booth like many of his contemporaries was a dedicated naturalist and a genuine “character”. He even had is own carriage at Brighton Station to hook up to the next outward bound train whenever a new or rare bird was spotted.


Edward Thomas Booth. 1840-1890. Pictured here holding a walking stick which is in fact a "410" shotgun.

Introduction to the First Edition dated 1876 by Mr. E T Booth in his own words

As a catalogue does not need a Preface, I will simply state by way of introduction that all scientific arrangements has been given up as hopeless in a collection where the chief objection has been to endeavour to represent the birds in situations somewhat similar to those in which they were obtained. Many of the cases, indeed being copied from sketches taken on the actual spots where the birds themselves were shot. The few notes that I have recorded are solely my personal observations and with two or three exceptions (all noted) not a book of reference has been opened. Those who expect to find a long list of rarities I am afraid will be sadly disappointed as in order to avoid exhibiting or describing a specimen with which I was only acquainted by hearsay, I have restricted the collection entirely to birds that have fallen to my own gun during my various excursions in the British Isles.

Booth in 1865 purchased a, then isolated house, on Dyke Road overlooking the sea, which he named "Bleak House". In 1874 when the taxidermy collection outgrew his home, he erected a much large structure in his garden which is now the museum we see today.

As well as creating the taxidermy museum he prepared some of the taxidermy items himself, having been trained by bird stuffer and barber “Kent” of St Leonard’s in Sussex. Before preparing the cases, Booth made detailed drawings of how each one should look.
These drawings were based solely on notes made in the field. Silhouettes of each bird was the created, cut to scale and arranged in the cases to create the most lifelike positions possible. Other creatures and plants were also incorporated into the taxidermy cases for additional detail.

This is an additional page to compliment the exisitng images.

The Booth Collection

The Booth II Collection

The Booth IV Collection


Victorian Black Tern


Victorian Blackbirds at nest scene in old wall.


Victorian Black Stork


Victorian Cuckoo chick and Sedge Warbler


Victorian Dippers at nest scene.


Victorian Dottrel and chicks


Victorian Little Grebes and chicks


Victorian Golden Eagle with lamb prey.


Victorian Greenshanks in Summer plumage.


Victorian Mediterranean Gulls by Pratt of Brighton


Victorian case of a family of Wrynecks


Victorian Arctic Terns in close up


Victorian Ptarmigan in Summer plumage by Pratt of Brighton


Victorian Snow Buntings by Pratt of Brighton


Victorian case of Linnets


Victorian Guillimots in Winter plumage by Pratt of Brighton


Victorian Reed Buntings


Victorian Upland Goose or Snowgoose


Victorian Whooper Swan


Victorian Great Bustard, obtained from the South Downs


Victorian Hooded Mergansers


Victorian Lapwing with four chicks by Pratt of Brighton

George Bristowe of St Leonards

George Bristow of St Leonards. This man it is understood taught ET Booth the art of taxidermy and it is further understood stuffed some of the birds that now form part of the Booth Collection in Brighton. Bristowe, upon his death caused a stir when it was suggested that his claims for "first" sightings in the world of Ornithology were in fact frudulent.
In August 1962, the ornithological journal ‘British Birds’ published two articles devoted to the examination of one topic. The authors, Max Nicholson and James Ferguson-Lees, made clear their intention in the accompanying editorial. This was to prove, by statistical analysis and comparison of records, that many, if not all, of the rare birds recorded from the Hastings area, in the period 1890 – 1930, were the result of a deliberate deception. Within a short time of the publication of the articles, dramatic newspaper headlines were speaking of the ‘Hastings Rarities Fraud’, and, for some time afterwards, the issue assumed almost national importance.
As a result of this letter, Mr George Bristow, the taxidermist who prepared and mounted almost all of the specimens taken locally, wrote to Witherby offering to have the specimens examined in the flesh, by experts, before skinning them. A panel of experts, consisting of some of the most notable ornithologists of the day was duly appointed. The number of rarities declined after this, but it should be borne in mind that in 1916 the First World War was at its height, and everyone involved had other concerns.
The Hastings Rarities undoubtedly contained a number of perfectly good records. It is now almost impossible to disentangle fact from fiction, which means the only way forward is to remove all the material from the record
Upon Bristowe's death his own private collection of some 300 cases (data written on the reverse), was given to Bristowes family doctor. These cases then were passed down that family line until recently. The collection included birds of prey, Bitterns and rare species that were reported to have been shot on Romney Marsh. We now know where these cases are located. According to the son of the Doctor,who treated Bristowe until his death, the family maintained that his claims were true regarding "firsts".

Book on the Hasting Rarities

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