King's College London
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To scrutinize the whole of Nature: The Royal Society and its fellows 1660-1730

Ligon's Barbados

A guanumbi, or hummingbird, from the manuscript notes in our copy of Richard Ligon's A true & exact history of the island of Barbadoes … London: printed, and are to be sold by Peter Parker, and Thomas Guy, 1673 [Rare Books Collection FOL. F2041.L6]A guanumbi, or hummingbird, from the manuscript notes in our copy of Richard Ligon's A true & exact history of the island of Barbadoes … London: printed, and are to be sold by Peter Parker, and Thomas Guy, 1673 [Rare Books Collection FOL. F2041.L6] This particular copy of Ligon’s A true & exact history of the island of Barbadoes is particularly interesting because of the annotations throughout and the extensive manuscript notes in the same seventeenth century hand that are bound with it.

These notes provide a detailed account of the discovery of the Americas and the natural history of the island, as well as the writer's observations on the slaves and Indians living on there. The author does not give his name but in the description of the hummingbird called the Guanumbi, shown here, he gives us a clue to his identity. He writes:

I sent this description of this bird to doctor Grew one of the Royal Society & he caused it to be printed in their ~ philosophical transactions

Such an account was indeed published in Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society in 1693, using much the same language as the account shown here, but is somewhat abbreviated. Although the report is anonymous a query regarding the account published in a later issue identifies the author as a Mr Hamersly of Coventry. This may be John Hamersly in whose name and the names of other members of his family manuscript inscriptions appear in a number of other books in our collections.

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