The Natural World

Natural phenomena fascinated Josiah and his Lunar Society friends; they journeyed around the Midlands, particularly into Dovedale in Derbyshire, discovering rocks and fossils. In search of clays, Josiah studied geology, noting the land stratification and recording the most curious features.

The 18th century, when men were pushing boundaries to seek enlightenment, was a period of exploration. Wedgwood's interest in natural sciences led him to follow keenly the great expeditions that were taking place around the world. Journeys to far-away places, particularly to unmapped territories south of the equator, were undertaken to further scientific discovery. The voyages to the southern Pacific, New Zealand and Australia in the 1760s and 1770s by Captain James Cook, Dr Daniel Solander and Sir Joseph Banks ensured theirs became familiar public names, worthy of Josiah's commemorative wares.

Expanding knowledge of the natural sciences required the ordering of facts. Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish natural historian, introduced a universally-adopted classification defining the species of plants. Darwin, through his interest in botany, and the other Lunar Men, with their scientific curiosity, keenly embraced such thinking.

Josiah was an ardent shell collector, amassing huge numbers at Etruria Hall. This absorbed much of his leisure and he often requested recent publications from London. The concurrence of shells and vases had already been noted by Italian artist Giovanni Piranesi in 1769, and Josiah used shell forms in his pottery. ‘I have got my face over a shell draw & find myself in imminent danger of becoming a Connoisseur. You can scarcely conceive the progress I have made in a month or two in the deep and very elaborate science of shell fancying' he wrote to Bentley in 1778.

 

 

Images

Dovedale in Derbyshire, favoured haunt of the Lunar Society members

Dovedale in Derbyshire, favoured haunt of the Lunar Society members