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Nicholas Marcellus Hentz Spider paintings

Identifier: Mss .H46

Content Description

Collection of 209 watercolors of created by Nicholas Marcellus Hentz. Colored drawings accompanied by commentary, mostly in English but some in French. Many are numbered, the highest number being 239.

The paintings have been digitized and added to the Research Library's Digital Special Collections.


  • between 1820 and 1840


Biographical / Historical

Nicholas Marcellus Hentz (1797-1856) was born in France and came to America with his family in 1816. He had some medical training in France and was a skilled painter of miniatures. In America he taught French and lived in the Boston area and eventually down into various parts of the South where he became a field naturalist and an insect collector. In the 1840's he sold his extensive specimen collection to the Boston Society of Natural History. He is best remembered for his descriptions of 141 species of spiders which are illustrated with these watercolors and published in the society's journal between 1842-1850.


209 Paintings (2 bound items housed in a single box ) : watercolor on paper ; 13 x 10 cm + notes (19 leaves, 32 x 10 cm)

Language of Materials



Custodial History

Originally a gift from Mrs. D.F.P. (Charity) Cole (Hentz's great-great-granddaughter) to the Museum in 1970 through John Cooke who was an AMNH Curator of Entomology.

The 1996 Natural History article, A Pioneering Spider Man, goes into further detail of the collection's history.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred by Lou Sorkin and Norm Platnick of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology.

Related Materials

Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology also has several of the Hentz paintings.


The illustrations were used in: Descriptions and figures of the Araneides of the United States. (Journal of the Boston Society of Natural History, v. 4, no. 1 (Jan. 1842)-v. 6 (1857)
The illustrations were used in: The spiders of the United States: a collection of the arachnological writings of Nicholas Marcellus Hentz / edited by Edward Burgess. 1875. (Occasional papers of the Boston Society of Natural History, v. 2)


Other identifier: Art Survey no. 86

Housed in Rare Folio: RF-37-I

Nicholas Marcellus Hentz Spider paintings, between 1820 and 1840
Rebecca Morgan
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Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420