Town mouse at the Queen’s Gallery

Not everything about returning to London after the summer break is good: all the tall buildings and traffic come as rather a shock after Ramsgate. Still, there has been the chance to catch up on exhibitions that we missed before leaving, a Sunday expedition being to ‘Amazing Rare Things’ at the Queen’s Gallery. As the title suggests, this selection of drawings of the natural world, from the Royal Collection, is amazing.

And rare, as it begins with some intensely observed studies of blackberries by Leonardo da Vinci. The medium is itself a wonderment: red chalk, sharpened to a fine point and used with almost scientific precision. Almost as extraordinary are the colourful studies by 17th- and 18th-century naturalists, such as those from Cassiano dal Pozzo’s ‘paper museum’. Often, they were recording creatures never seen before by European scientists.

One might have thought that some of them, such as the Surinam toad, so flat that it looks like road kill and hatching its eggs on its back, were the result of too much rum punch—but no, Sir David Attenborough’s commentary makes clear that they are all astonishingly accurate. The show lasts until September 28: do go if you haven’t seen it.