Valenciennes depicted by Isidore Salles

Achille Valenciennes (1794-1845) was a professor of natural history in the Paris Museum, succeeding to Geoffroy Saint Hilaire, for the malacology chair [1] ; he became famous in collaborating and continuing the Histoire naturelle des Poissons of Georges Cuvier (22 volumes).

We know the numerous tensions that existed among the great professors of the Museum: Cuvier, Buffon, Daubenton, Geoffroy, Lacépède… Valenciennes did not escape to criticisms, e.g. those of his colleague and correspondant Bibron and Bory de Saint-Vincent.

The journalist Bertrand-Isidore de Salles (alias Isidore S. de Gosse) wrote a Histoire naturelle, drolatique et philosophique des Professeurs du Jardin des Plantes in 1846. In this pamphlet, the professors and assistants are portrayed with humour, exactness but also in a satyric or vitriolic way, in a Rebelaisian style. This very rare and unknown pamphlet is mentionned by Gay (1869) and Drujon (1888).

In this booklet, Valenciennes is strongly attacked by Salles; he his surnamed “Echinophorus ostraciosus de Lacépède” (perhaps in reference to the Cassis echinophorus of Lamarck) meaning: “bear spines” (echinus+phorein) and maybe “precious stone” as onyx (ostracias+osus), a pejorative name, simultaneously urticating and preciosity.

His notice began with his history of Pisces:

Echinophorus croit qu’il suffit de savoir distinguer une carpe d’un brochet pour être un grand homme ; aussi dit-il CUVIER et MOI ! en parlant de la grande histoire des poissons, assez triste compilation du reste, et qui chaque jour devient plus pitoyable. On va jusqu’à dire que les goujons ont présenté une pétition à la chambre des députés, pour que l’article qui les concerne soit mieux traité et surtout mieux écrit”.  [Echinophorus believes that it is enough to know how to distinguish a carp from a pike to be a great man; so says CUVIER and ME! speaking of the great story of the fish, a sad enough compilation of the rest, and which every day becomes more pitiful. It goes so far as to say that the studs presented a petition to the Chamber of Deputies, so that the article that concerns them is better treated and especially better written].

In another passage, he has mocked of the herpetologist: “Chacun sait que M. Valenciennes fréquente beaucoup les mollusques acéphales, lui qui, jeune encore, avait découvert que les grenouilles adultes n’ont pas de queue”. [It is well known that M. Valenciennes frequents a lot of acephalic molluscs, he who, young, had discovered that adult frogs do not have a tail].

But Valenciennes is even more criticised as concholologist at whom the students would laugh since the first lesson ; “aussi a-t-il pretexté certaine petite maladie jusqu’à ce qu’il eût un peu mieux étudié la matière… Pauvre science !”. His recent nomination in 1844 by Cuvier is regarded as a “étrange fantaisie” and Salles (in April 1846) make a caricature of him in these terms:

“Élevé au milieu des bocaux d’alcool où s’ébattent des poissons crevés, M. Valenciennes est poissonnier, on ne peut plus poissonnier ; mais ne lui demandez pas autre chose, car il ne sait que cela ; aussi dans leur sapience, MM. les administrateurs du Jardin l’ont-ils appelé à la chaire de conchyliologie, vu qu’on ne le sortait pas de son milieu. (…) M. Valenciennes, ce savant conchyliologiste est arrivé au fauteuil… -On s’est demandé ce qu’il ferait dessus. Mais on commence à être rassuré ; car jusqu’à ce moment, il n’y a rien fait.” [Raised in the middle of the jars of alcohol where flounder fish are playing, M. Valenciennes is a fishmonger, he can no longer be a fishmonger; but do not ask him anything else, for he knows only that; also in their sapience, the administrators of the Garden did call him to the chair of conchyliology, since he was not taken out of his circle (…) M. Valenciennes, this learned conchyliologist arrived at the chair … -We wondered what he would do on it. But we begin to feel reassured; because until now, he did nothing].

Next, the journalist ridiculed his reception speech in which Valenciennes talked about the gibelotte (rabbit stew with white wine) instead molluscs! Salles play with the exaggeration, proper to the satyrical manner : “Déjà, il avait lu [son discours] à son aide-naturaliste, qui avait menacé de donner sa démission s’il l’obligeait à l’entendre à nouveau ; il l’avait lu à sa cuisinière qui avait, pour s’en venger, salé sa soupe outre mesure (…)”. [Already he had read [his speech] to his naturalist aide, who had threatened to resign if he obliged him to hear him again; he had read it to his cook who had, in revenge, salted his soup unduly (…) “.]

These acerbic critics seems totally unjustified in respect of his work today, and even in the 19th century, Gay (1869) wrote : “L’ouvrage est une critique amère de l’administration du Museum à cette époque. Est-elle fondée ? C’est ce que nous ne saurions décider”. [The work is a bitter criticism of the Museum’s administration at this time. Is it founded? That’s what we can not decide].

Sources

[1] http://facultes19.ish-lyon.cnrs.fr/fiche.php?indice=1451

Bibliography

Bibron & Bory de Saint-Vincent, J.B.G.M., 1833 – Vertébrés à sang froid. Reptiles et poissons : 57-80. In : Expédition scientifique de Morée. Section des Sciences physiques. Tome III, 1re partie. Zoologie. Première section – Des animaux vertébrés, 209 p.

Drujon, F., 1888Histoire naturelle, drolatique et philosophique des Professeur, des Aides-naturalistes, Préparateurs,etc.  : 465-467. In : Les livres à Clef, étude de bibliographie critique et analytique pour servir à l’histoire littéraire, tome premier. Paris, Rouveyre, 674 p.

Gay J., 1869Histoire naturelle, drolatique et philosophique des Professeurs du Jardin des Plantes par Isid. S. de Gosse (pseudonyme). Paris, 1847, in-12, 296 pages : 265-266. In : Le bibliophile fantaisiste ou choix de pièces désopilantes et rares réimprimées en 1869. Turin, J. Gay & fils, 576 p.

Gosse, I.S., 1847 (1846) – Histoire naturelle, drolatique et philosophique des Professeurs du Jardin des Plantes, des Aides-naturalistes, Préparateurs, etc. attachés à cet établissement, accompagnée d’épisodes scientifiques et pittoresques. J. Béhue, 2017, 220 p.

Valenciennes, A., 1846 – Atlas de Zoologie, Mollusques, Paris, Gide et Cie Ed. In : Du Petit Thouars, 1846. Voyage autour du monde sur la frégate la Vénus pendant les années 1836-1839 ; publié par ordre du roi sous les auspices du Ministre de la Marine, p. 24 pls.

 

 

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Stoliczka and Theobald: portraits

Last week I was in London and found an interesting photograph in the room of Jonathan Ablett. He said he did not know any details, but could inquire with Fred Naggs. This is what he added as information: “It shows the staff of the Geological Survey of India and was published in one of the Indian journals but I’m not sure which one offhand, possible ZSI. The quality of the published image is rather poor. About 40 years ago I did make enquiries about the original photograph and if it could be traced but at the time I didn’t get anywhere”.

Two malacologists are indicated in the top row: Ferdinand Stoliczka (1838-1874) and William Theobald (1829-1908).

Heinrich Dohrn: photos

Wolfgang Ludwig Heinrich Dohrn (1838-1913) was born in northern Poland, then part of Prussia. He studied in Stettin and became especially known as malacologist and entomologist.

Through a link on the Wikipedia page we found a cryptic site [1] with photographs which are reproduced here:

The last photo is dated ‘1900’.

Note:
[1] http://zbc.ksiaznica.szczecin.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=1893&dirids=1

Moitessier and Paladilhe: collections

Prosper-Antoine Moitessier (1807-1867) is more famous for having been an organ builder. He wrote some papers relative to malacology and his collection was sold to the dealer Damon in 1867 (after Dance, 1966). Maybe a part of the Moitessier’s collection is housed into the collections of the Natural History Museum (NHMUK).
In 1880’s, Georges Coutagne was preparing his revision of the genus Moitessieria. He wrote to almost all malacologists having representatives of this genus in their collection, and tried to check all types. The localisation of “old” collections was therefore required.
Within this context, Coutagne wrote to Albert Moitessier (1833-1889), son of Prosper-Antoine. He was a medical doctor, and professor at the University of Montpellier. However, Albert Moitessier had sold the collection of his father, without remembering the name of the purchaser. He proposed to find the collections of some very close relations of his father in malacology as Dr. Paladilhe and Dubreuil.

“Montpellier, 3 février 1882
Monsieur, je regrette bien vivement de ne pouvoir vous venir en aide dans votre travail. La collection de mon père n’est plus en ma possession. Elle a été vendue, à l’époque de sa mort en Angleterre, et je n’en ai conservé, comme souvenir, que quelques coquilles sans intérêt scientifique. Les quelques espèces du genre Moitessieria, que j’aurais désiré conserver, n’ont pu m’être cédées, à aucune condition par l’acquéreur, qui paraissaient y tenir beaucoup.
Je puis cependant vous donner un renseignement, bien vague sans doute et probablement inutile, mais qui vous permettrait peut-être de retrouver quelques espèces de ce genre, mon père avait pour ami le docteur Paladilhe, amateur passionné et heureux dans la recherche des petites espèces. Mr Paladilhe est mort en laissant une collection fort intéressante. J’ignore ce qu’est devenue cette collection car la famille a quitté Montpellier. Je ne pense pas toutefois que cette collection ait été détruite car elle ne renfermait rien de séduisant pour les yeux incompétents. Il me serait peut-être possible d’en retrouver la trace et je me mets à votre disposition pour rechercher ce qu’elle est devenue. J’ignore toutefois si elle renfermait la M. gervaisiana.
Peut-être, aussi, pourriez-vous avoir quelques indications auprès de Mr. Dubrueil de Montpellier, qui avait des relations avec Paladilhe. Mr Dubrueil possède une intéressante collection de mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles de France. Il ne serait pas impossible qu’il ait recueilli quelques espèces de la succession Paladilhe.
Agréez, je vous prie, l’expression de les sentiments distingués.
A. Moitessier”

002

001 [1]

The collection of Paladilhe is housed in University of Montpellier.

Source:
[1] Musée des Confluences, Centre de conservation et d’étude des collections, Lyon

Reference
Dance SP. 1966. Shell collecting. An illustrated history. Los Angeles/Berkely: University of California Press, 345 pp.

 

 

 

Season’s Greetings

Since I became so interested in networks between malacologists in the past, my Season’s Greetings for this year are devoted to this topic. Here you find the original of this card, with further context. But below is the explanation given for those who want to know if they know all these malacologists.

kn2016explanationAnd above (inverted in gray) is the answer on the question “Who is the man whose son can be seen here twice?”…

Eponyms as link: Orbigny and Dupin

Alcide d’Orbigny (1802–1857) was not only a malacologist but devoted much of his time to the study of fossils. He is well-known by his travels to South America and his voluminous paleontological works.

schermafbeelding-2016-12-02-om-14-15-30[1]

During an inventory of eponyms given by d’Orbigny to other persons, one of the outstanding names was ‘Dupin’, to whom not less than 32 eponyms were dedicated. In d’Orbigny (1842: 377–378) we read under the description of Conoteuthis Dupinianus “La seule espèce connue (…) a été découverte par le docteur Dupin (…) des environs d’Ervy (Aube). La science doit à cet habile observateur un très grand nombre de faits nouveaux. (…) il a réuni (…) l’énorme chiffre de 474 échantillons de Gastéropodes, dont il a bien voulu enricher ma Paléontologie française”. Indeed, d’Orbigny described many new species named after Dupin in this work (1840-1849) and in his Prodrome de paléontologie (1849-1852).

Curious to know more about Dupin, it was possible to find some data in the official journal of Dept. Aube (Anonymous, 1863). Georges Auguste Dupin finished his study medicine in Paris in 1825, and settled in Ervy-le-Châtel. Unfortunately, nothing more is known. Dupin was one of the ‘field collectors’ who trusted his material to d’Orbigny for identification.

Source:
Wikipedia

References:
Anonymous. 1863. Liste des médecins et officiers de Santé, dans l’ordre de leur inscription à la Préfecture de l’Aube. Annuaire administratief, statistique et commercial du département de l’Aube (1863): 222–227.
d’Orbigny, A. 1842. Mémoire sur deux genres nouveaux de Céphalopodes fossiles (les Conoteuthis et Spirulirostra) offrant des passages, d’un côté entre la Spirule et la Sèche, de l’autre entre les Bélemnites et les Ommastrèphes.  Annales des sciences naturelles (2) 17: 362–367.

Père David (1826-1900): biography, portraits

The priest Père David was born as Jean Pierre Armand David in 1826 as son of a doctor and mayor in a village in southwestern France. After his education in Bayonne he went to Paris to enter the congregation of the ‘Lazaristes’, who were missionaries in non-christian regions. Between 1850 and 1862 he was in a Lazarist cloister near Genua, where he devoted himself to natural sciences.

schermafbeelding-2016-11-29-om-08-44-43[1]

When in 1861 the Paris zoologist Milne-Edwards asked the cooperation of missionaries to collect animals and plants in – then still unexplored – China, the Lazarists sent Armand David to this country. Once in China he made several large expeditions; in 1866 to Mongolia, in 1868-1870 in central China and Sichuan, and in 1872-1874 in Central and Eastern China.

schermafbeelding-2016-11-29-om-09-14-02[2]

Probably dating from that time is the following portrait:

schermafbeelding-2016-11-29-om-09-24-06[2]

During the expedition a large amount of animals and plants were sent to the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, where the material was studied and new species were described, many with an eponym after Père David (e.g. Davidia involucrata, Buddleja davidii), but of course also to other contacts of the describing author (e.g. Bulimus baudoni Deshayes, 1870).

In 1874 he returned to France, where he settled down in the headquarters of the congregation in Paris. He published on his expeditions, and also a large work on the birds of China. The following portrait was made by the photographer Ferdinand Bérillon (a malacologist himself) in Bayonne in 1884.

armand_david_berillon_bnf_gallica

[2,3]

The back side of this photo tells the whole summary of his life…

schermafbeelding-2016-11-29-om-09-38-41[3]

Sources:
[1] Unknown date. Le Père David.
[2] Wikipedia.
[3] BnF / Gallica.

Reference:
Deshayes, GP. 1870. Diagnoses d’espèces nouvelles de mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles de la principauté de Moupin, Thibet oriental envoyées au Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris par M. l’Abbé Armand David missionaire. Bulletin des Nouvelles Archives du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris 6:19-27.