Our logo has given reason to both praise and curiosity among many members. Thomas Madsen (see photo below), a researcher in evolutionary ecology based in Australia and Sweden but a herpetologist and historian at heart, contributed with his skills in drawing it. It is a composition of three original motifs.
The lizard like animal with two hind legs and no forelegs appears in Jacob Theodore Klein's Tentamen herpetologiae (1755). Klein actually refers the origin of the animal to Thesaurus animalium vivis coloribus egregie pictorum but he does not state any obvious author to this book. The identity of the species remains a mystery even in the world of mythological animals. It is nevertheless a fitting source as it was Klein who minted the term herpetology and used it even in the title of his book that deals with snake and "worm" systematics.
The size of the lizard on the plate in Klein's work (nose to tip of tail) is about 40 cm. Dr. Madsen has cautiously transposed the image getting it to resemble what would have been the case had anybody performed the exercise in those days. The process to reproduce figures before modern copying techniques were invented was first to engrave an identical drawing on a copper plate before the transposed copies eventually were printed on paper.
The snake with a crown and the tongue formed like an arrow was replicated from Charles Owen's An Essay towards a Natural History of Serpents (1742). "The basilisk or Cockatrice, is a serpent of the Draconick Line" and "It is gross in Body, or fiery Eyes, and sharp Head, on which it wears a Crest, like a Cock's Comb".
Owen says that it had the reputation of being the king of snakes however not because it wears a crown but "because of its majestic Pace, which seems to be attended with an Air of Grandeur and Authority." If it is another good choice to reflect the society's image one can contemplate.
The book that lies open is Carolus Linnaeus' (1762) Amoenitates Academicae volume 2, showing the title page to the thesis Lignum colubrinum that was defended by J. A. Darelius on snake and snakebites and especially on the medical properties of the Indian plant against poisoning. The sharp-eyed person can see a sinuous animal depicted on the leaf to the left. This belongs to the preceding article on Tænia, i.e. tapeworms!
Thomas Madsen with one of his subjects,
a common viper Vipera berus
at his favorite locality, Smygehuk, Sweden.