Before emigrating to Australia in 1853 Edward Gilks, a trained lithographer, taught art both privately and at the City of London Mechanics Institute.
In Melbourne Gilks immersed himself in the local creative community, both professionally and socially. He and his wife attended the founding meeting of the Victorian Fine Arts Society, he exhibited, and also contributed to the Illustrated Australasian and Cake and Ale. He is perhaps best known for his many engravings, watercolours and lithographs of Melbourne's most significant buildings and events.
Financially Gilks struggled to keep his private lithographic ventures afloat. In between bouts of financial collapse and insolvency he worked as a lithographic draughtsman for various government departments, such as Crown lands and Mining. From 1861 to 1863 he was commissioned to draft plates for the Prodromus.
Although not published until many years later, Gilks' lithography of the Red-bellied Black Snake opened the Prodromus as Plate No.1. This was the only reptile he lithographed - the remaining dozen or so plates McCoy commissioned were of Dr McGillivray's Bryozoa.
The beautiful purple watercolour Bryozoan illustrations are a testament to Gilks' technical ability. Although his fine detailed style was not suited to the crayon of the lithographic process, his original illustrations exhibit a creative sensitivity missing in other Bryozoan studies.