Francis O. Morris
FRANCIS ORPEN MORRIS, Irish born (1810-1893)
Author, teacher, naturalist, Rev. Francis Orpen Morris fascination with natural history was evident as a young man. While a pupil at Bromsgrove School, young Morris began to collect birds nest and butterfly specimens. He earned his degree in the Classics in 1833; however, much of his time as a student was spent studying of natural history. During this period, he also met noted entomologist James Duncan, author of British Butterflies, and gave his time to the Ashmolean Musuem, helping to arrange its insect collection.
Morris decided to enter the church, becoming the curate at Hanging Heaton near Dewsbury, then being ordained as deacon by the Archbishop of York in 1834. By 1844, he had married Anne Sanders, and became vicar of Nafferton, a small parish in East Yorkshire, where he served for nine years. His next assignment to a larger parish in Nunburnholme allowed him more flexibility, greater income and the opportunity to return to his study of nature.
In 1834, he began his association with Benjamin Fawcett, a local printer who was a very skilled wood block printer. Their business relationship would endure for the next fifty years, Morris would take on the texts while Fawcett would finance and print them, applying the advanced system of coloring that utilized wood blocks in place of manual labor. Morris' first acclaimed work: A History of British Birds was published in monthly parts over a seven year period, from 1850 through 1857, the final six-volume work containing 358 colored plates. Its' popularity prompted Fawcett to move his operations to a larger space to accommodate demand. Additional titles followed: A Natural History of the Nests and Eggs of British Birds, A History of British Butterflies and A History of British Moths.
For all his life, Francis Orpen Morris was known as a champion of wildlife. He despised fox hunting, a popular and traditional English sport, and was an outspoken critic of British biologist Thomas Huxley, whom he considered brutal for his practice of vivisection. Morris encouraged and advocated conservation early on, and was instrumental in founding the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. After a long marriage that produced nine children, he died in 1893, and is buried at Nunburnholme.