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Drury, Drufree

  • C. M. F. von Hayek

Drury, Dru (1725–1804), silversmith and naturalist, was born on 4 February 1725, probably in Lad Lane, Wood Street, London, the son of Drew Drury, silversmith, and only surviving child of the eight children of his father's second marriage, to Mary Hesketh. (The unusual forename was bestowed through many generations, from Sir Dru Drury (1531/2–1617), courtier, into the twentieth century.) Drury was apprenticed in 1739 to his father in the Goldsmiths' Company, obtained his freedom in 1748, and became a liveryman in 1751. When Drury was twenty-three he succeeded to his father's business, and on 7 June 1748 he married Esther, or Easter, Pedley (d. 1787), a daughter of his father's first wife's previous marriage. Of their seventeen children, only three survived him; the rest died young. Through this marriage he became the owner of several freehold houses in London and Essex, which brought him an annual income of between £250 and £300. In 1771 he purchased a silversmith's shop and stock at 32 Strand, where he made nearly £2000 per annum for some years. In 1777 he was made bankrupt as a result of deception by two Yorkshire cutlers, but was helped by generous friends to resume business the following year. In 1789 he retired from the business, which was carried on by his son William.

Drury's private and business income enabled him to indulge to the full his interest in natural history and especially entomology. He persuaded ships' officers and other travellers to collect for him, providing them with the necessary equipment. He had printed and distributed a pamphlet of three quarto pages entitled Directions for Collecting Insects in Foreign Countries (1772?), offering 6d. per insect, 'whatever the size'. His collection soon became famous. Henry Smeathman (d. 1786), noted for his researches on termites, was one of his collectors, and the naturalist Edward Donovan (1768–1837) spoke admiringly of his magnificent collections. Fabricius, Olivier, Kirby, and other workers based descriptions of new species on his specimens.

Between 1770 and 1782 Drury published Illustrations of Natural History, a work in three parts with parallel texts in English and French. The illustrations, based on specimens in his collection, were prepared by Moses Harris, who also coloured the plates of the best copies. Through his own efforts Drury succeeded in selling a number of copies into Europe. The work was much admired in his lifetime and the plates are undoubtedly very fine, though by modern standards the descriptions leave much to be desired. Westwood (1837) and Panzer (1885–8) published enlarged French and German editions. Drury's letter-books and other surviving papers show that he kept up a lively correspondence, mainly on natural history, with Linnaeus, Pallas, Haworth, and other friends and acquaintances at home and abroad. From 1780 to 1782 he was president of the Society of Entomologists of London, the precursor of the Royal Entomological Society of London. He was also an early member of the Linnean Society.

In retirement Drury divided his time between London and his home at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, where he continued to collect insects. He was a lover of gardening, and enjoyed angling in the River Lea and the New River. For several years he amused himself by making wines from different sorts of fruit, and conducting experiments in distillation. Always of an active mind, he persuaded many travellers to join his speculative searches for gold. In this connection he published a booklet and plate entitled Thought on precious metals, particularly gold: its general dissemination over the face of the globe with descriptions and hints to travellers, captains of ships etc., for obtaining them, from the rough diamond down to the pebble-stone (c.1801). His projects were generally fruitless.

About 1797 Drury moved to Turnham Green, to the west of London. A complication of ailments began to afflict him, principally stones in the bladder, from which he died at his son's house in the Strand on 15 January 1804; he was buried in the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster, on 21 January.

Drury's remarkably fine collection of over 11,000 specimens, many unique, built up over thirty years, was dispersed by auction at a three-day sale in May 1805. It brought £614 8s. 6d., with about £300 more for the cabinets, books, and copperplates of the Illustrations of Natural History.


  • C. H. Smith, ‘Memoir of Dru Drury, with a portrait’, The Naturalists' Library, 13 (1842), [17]–71 [Introduction to the Mammalia]
  • A. G. Grimwade, London goldsmiths, 1697–1837: their marks and lives, from the original registers at Goldsmiths' Hall, 3rd edn (1990), 494–7, 746
  • T. D. A. Cockerell, ‘Dru Drury, an eighteenth-century entomologist’, Scientific Monthly (Jan 1922), 67–82
  • H. B. Weiss, ‘Dru Drury, silversmith and entomologist of the eighteenth century’, Entomological News, 38 (1927), 208–14
  • B. Noblett, ‘Dru Drury's Directions for collecting insects in foreign countries’, Bulletin of the Amateur Entomologists' Society, 44 (1985), 170–78
  • C. M. F. von Hayek, ‘On the type material of the species of coleoptera described from the Drury collection by D. Drury and J. C. Fabricius with notes on some coleoptera from the Milne collection preserved in the British Museum (Natural History)’, Archives of Natural History, 12 (1985), 143–52
  • W. Noblett, ‘Dru Drury, his Illustrations of Natural History (1770–82), and the European market for printed books’, Quaerendo, 15/2 (1985), 83–102
  • W. Noblett, ‘Publishing by the author: a case study of Dru Drury's Illustrations of Natural History (1770–82)’, Publishing History, 23 (1988), 67–94
  • F. J. Griffin, ‘The first entomological societies, an early chapter in entomological history in England’, Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society of London, ser. A, 15 (1940), 49–68
  • E. B. Poulton, ‘The Society of Entomologists of London for the Study of Insects: 1780–82’, Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society of London, 8 (1933), 97–104
  • C. D. Sherborn, ‘Dru Drury’, Journal of the Society of the Bibliography of Natural History, 1 (1936–43), 109–11
  • W. Drury, signed statement, notebook no. 28, NHM


  • NHM, corresp. and papers
  • Oxf. U. Mus. NH, Hope Library, entomological notebooks
  • University of Sydney, MacLeay Museum


  • W. H. Lizars, engraving, repro. in Smith, ‘Memoir of Dru Drury’