history of taxidermy
“Taxidermy” is derived from the Greek word taxis (to arrange) and derma (skin).
The historical concept of taxidermy is not simply to arrange skins but to manipulate them into a lifelike form.
A working definition of taxidermy comprises of three crucial elements.
• To preserve skin
• To insert stuffing
• To pose the animal in lifelike form
You can then eliminate the ancient Egyptians as being taxidermists because their mummifications were not lifelike. The modern definition of Taxidermy in practice can be traced back to 1517 when Dutch explorers brought back skins of the cassowary and an assortment of other strange birds from the Indian Archipelago which were stuffed in Amsterdam. Taxidermy practice has been found in several 16th century zoology books, nevertheless taxidermy as we understand it today is a little more than four hundred years old.
The oldest authenticated stuffed vertebrae can still be seen hanging from the ceiling of the church of St Maria Annunziata at Ponte Nossa in Lombardy. Crocodile mounts once dried are pretty much impregnable and the skin is almost as stiff and hard as sheet metal. The specimen found at the church has been dated as far back as 1530 and has preserved very well. The oldest bird and mammal taxidermy might begin with the collection of Linnaeus, the father of modern biology. However most of his specimens were skinned and then pressed giving a two dimensional skin that was non life like.