The Bowdlers

the genealogy and history of the Bowdler family

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Richard Bowdler Sharpe (1847-1909)

LLD (Honoris causa, Aberdeen), FLS, FZS, MBOU.

An Ornithologist , Sharpe was Assistant Keeper, Vertebrate Section of the British Museum's Zoology Department from 1895-1909. He had a particular interest in classification and phylogeny and its relation to evolution.

A distinguished international founding member of the Australian Ornithologists' Union.

Born 22 November 1847, London, the eldest son of Thomas Bowdler Sharpe publisher, Grandson of Rev. Lancelot Sharpe, rector of All Hallows Staining, London.

1853, Age 6 placed in the care of an Aunt in Brighton.

1856, Age 9 transferred to grammar school Peterborough where he gained a "King's Scholarship".

Transferred to grammar school in Loughborough

1863, Age 16 took a clerkship at W.H. Smith & Son.

1865, Age 18 entered employ of B. Quartich

1866, Age 19 appointed librarian to Zoological Society.

1867-72 Librarian to Zoological Society.

1869, Age 22 first published work: Monograph Alcedinidae (started when he was 17).

1872 accepts post of Senior Assist. Dept Zoology British Museum. (following G.R. Grays death).

Curator of Birds, British Museum 1872-1909

Co-author of series Birds of Europe, and when he joined the British Museum in 1872 as Senior Assistant in the Department of Zoology, he commenced his massive Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum - a landmark in the history of ornithology - was produced under the editorship of Richard Bowdler Sharpe and published in 27 volumes between 1874 and 1898 by order of the Trustees. Although the original plan was that Bowdler Sharpe should produce the entire work, this proved impossible and he was therefore assisted by ten well-known ornitholgists - Gadow, Hargitt, Hartert, Oglivie-Grant, Salvadori, Salvin, Saunders, Sclater, Seebohm and Shelley. The entire work when completed described 11,617 species distributed over 2,255 genera.

Catalogue of the Accipitres, or diurnal birds of prey, in the collection of the British Museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees, 1874.

Catalogue of the Striges, or nocturnal birds of prey, in the collection of the British museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees, 1875.

Catalogue of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, in the collection of the British museum. Coliomorphae... London: printed by order of the Trustees, 1877.

Catalogue of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, in the collection of the British museum. Cichlomorphae, pt.I... London: printed by order of the Trustees, n1879.

Catalogue of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, in the collection of the British museum. Cichlomorphae, pt.III-[IV]... London: printed by order of the Trustees, 1881-83.

Catalogue of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, in the collection of the British museum. Fringilliformes, pt.I... London: printed by order of the Trustees, 1885.

Produced the handsome A monograph of the Hirundinidae, or family of the swallows from 1885 to 1894.

Catalogue of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, in the collection of the British museum. Fringilliformes, pt.III... London: printed by order of the Trustees, 1888.

Catalogue of the Passeriformes, or perching birds, in the collection of the British museum. Sturniformes... London: printed by order of the Trustees, sold by Longmans & co., 1890.

Catalogue of the Picariae in the collection of the British museum. Coraciae... London: printed by order of the Trustees, sold by Longmans & co., 1892.

He founded the British Ornithologists' Club in 1892, (to allow for more informal discussion and regular meetings than the BOU offered) and edited its Bulletin for many years.

In 1893 he published An analytical index to the works of the late John Gould, a folio volume containing over thirteen thousand references as well as a biographical memoir of Gould. A copy of this important reference work is part of the Hill Collection.

Catalogue of the Fulicariae... and Alectorides... in the collection of the British museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees, sold by Longmans & co., 1894.

From 1895-1909, he was Assistant Keeper, Vertebrate Section of the Zoology Department.

Catalogue of the Limicolae in the collection of the British museum. London: printed by order of the Trustees, sold by Longmans & co., 1896.

Catalogue of the Plataleae, Herodiones, Steganopodes, Pygopodes, Alcae, and Impennes in the collection of the British museum... London: printed by order of the Trustees; sold by Longmans & co., 1898.

Built collection from 35,000 in 1872 to 500,000 in 1909.

Dec 16, 1909 attends BOC meeting, on returning home, seized with a chill returned home, took to bed, contracted pneumonia.

Died 25 December 1909.

Note: The first edition of Buller's Birds of New Zealand  was published in 1872-3 in an edition of 500 copies with only 36 hand coloured lithographic plates by J.G. Keulemans.  The lithographic stones were then destroyed. The highly valuable first edition plates were hand coloured by Dr. R. Bowdler Sharpe's three daughters, Misses Dora Louise, Daisy Madeliner, and Sylvia Rosamund, with some copied from G.Edwards. Keuleman's background details were also coloured. Sometimes no water colour original exists where Keulemans drew his design directly on the stone and then coloured  the first print himself as a guide to the hand colourers of further copies.

A number of Richard Bowdler Sharpes publications are available in new editions.


The Genealogy

Rev. Lancelot Sharpe, rector of All Hallows Staining, London
Bn: 1774
Md: 1805?
Preb. Ealdstreet
1843-1851
Dd: 1851?

Jane Mary Harrison

George Cooper

Thomas Bowdler Sharpe
Publisher
Bn: 1817/8
Bap: 17 FEB 1818  All Hallows Staining, London
Md: 01 October 1846,  St Sepulchre, , London

Elizabeth Cooper
Bn: 1818/9

Richard Bowdler Sharpe (eldest son)
Bn: 22 November 1847
Bap: 17 December 1847. St Sepulchre, London
Dd: 25 December 1909

Richard was definitely baptised 'Richard Bowdler Sharpe'. His parents were Thomas Bowdler Sharpe and Elizabeth (formerly Cooper). However his paternal grandparents were Rev. Lancelot Sharpe and Jane Mary Harrison.

Thomas was the only one of Lancelots children to have 'Bowdler' in his name therefore I think it must be a forename rather than part of his surname.

I think it is likely that Thomas got the 'Bowdler' part of his name from a religious connection - he was born in 1818, the same year that the 'Bowdler Family Shakespeare' was published.

Similarly, Richard is the only one of Thomas' children with 'Bowdler' in his name. It was probably passed on as he was the eldest.

Therefore, although he is recorded on all certificates/cencus as Richard Bowdler Sharpe, I am sure that 'Bowdler' is a forename; his surname being Sharpe.

I think that also means he's not a true Bowdler and I should take him off this website...  I think he can stay as an honorary Bowdler.   :-)