Category Archives: Collections

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”


001 [1]

The collection of Paladilhe is housed in University of Montpellier.

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

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





Lamare-Picquot: collection

Lamare-Picquot (1785-1873) is a famous french explorator: Mauritius, Indes, Turkey, and also North America from where he tried to introduce in Europe some species, e.g., Psoralea esculenta (the “Picquotiane”) instead potatoes… Lamare-Picquot was a great naturalist, also ethnologist, correspondent of Academy of Sciences and of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, in Paris. He obtained some fame because of his theory that reptiles could suckle the milk from udder, a theory classified under the category “prejudices”, by Duméril and Bibron. Lamare-Picquot has given many collections to MNHN, while others were sold (e.g., to BMNH) to finance his voyages.

According to Chaigneau (1982), who consulted the National Archives (AJ 15-548), we learn that his zoological collections were shared at the end of his life between MNHN and different universities:


In Lyon University, we found in the general collection a shell, which was apparently obtained by this sharing in 1865.

dsc_9847 [1]

[1] Coll. UCBL
I thank Mrs. Blandine Bärtschi for welcoming us.

Chaigneau M. 1982. Christophe-Augustin Lamare-Picquot, pharmacien, naturaliste, explorateur. Revue d’Histoire de la Pharmacie 70 (252): 5–26.

Miot: bio, collection

Henri (or Henry) Calixte Miot (1841-1938) was linked by his family ties to the Diderot family, and hence to the famous encyclopedist Diderot. He was born on 3 June 1841 in Langres (France, Haute-Marne) in a family of lawyers. His major commitment in his career was about justice, and also the protection of animals. In particular he wrote a little book on the legal implementation of animal protection (domestic animals mistreated) (Miot, 1870b). Member of the Société protectrice des Animaux, he was convinced (just as Duméril) that the birds, the reptiles and the insects were useful to regulate the populations of the insect pests, and that we need to protect them (Miot, 1870a).

Settled in the surroundings of Dijon, he was in the magistracy as substitute for the Imperial Prosecutor in Semur-en-Auxois (France, Côte-d’Or), and later as investigating judge in Beaune. He was also a great collector. We know in particular that he was interested in philately [1] and in bibliophily. In natural sciences, he was interested in entomology, geology and malacology. His collection is housed in the geological collections of the University of Burgundy (UBG).


It consists of seven drawers exclusively dedicated to Unionid shells, with some Cyclas and Corbicula species (233 lots). The material originates from North America (United States and Canada), Africa and Middle-East (Gabon, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq) and Europa (Spain, France and Italy). The majority of the specimens is from France, and their provenance shows they originate from the Drouët collection. Henri Drouët (1829-1900) was an administrator and a famous conchologist specialized in the Unionidae family, living in Troyes before moving to Dijon. The two persons were in close connection but probably only at the end of Drouët’s life. He mentioned him for the first time in 1898 in Unionidés du Bassin de la Seine, and probably he did not have time to give him an eponym. Besides Drouët, some other collectors appears in the provenance data of his collection, such as Léon Provancher (1820-1892) and Mr. Pétot.





I thank Mrs. Monique Léquy for the information kindly provided.
[2] Provided by courtesy of Guy Peaudecerf. Henri Miot
Ex libris & collectis. C. Audibert, private collection.
Signature in a dedication inside a book (British Museum)

Audibert C, Thomas J. 2014. Une autre collection de mulettes de Drouët à l’université de Bourgogne : la collection “Henri Miot”. Folia Conchyliologica 27: 4–7.
Miot H. 1870a. Les insectes auxiliaires et les insectes utiles. Paris: Librairie agricole, 1–101.
Miot H. 1870b.
De la répression des mauvais traitements exercé envers les animaux domestiques. Commentaire de la loi des 2-9 juillet 1850 (loi Grammont). Paris: Librairie agricole, 1–24, 1 pl.

The Eudel collection

Emile Eudel (1831–1892) was a sea captain who later entered the French colonial administration and lived for some time in Cambodia. He has collected many shells which he sold to European collectors, but also had his own collection. This was sold partly to Sowerby (Pteropoda) and partly to Fulton (Mollusca), who sold subsequently parts of it to different clients (Duchamps, 1999).

In the Dautzenberg collection, where the original labels usually have been replaced with Dautzenberg’s own, I found an original label from the Eudel collection.


From this label it becomes clear that Eudel was in contact with Fréderic Cailliaud (1787–1869), who made the identification for him. Also clear is that Eudel was very precise in his labelling, making notes on whom identified and the date.

A second label was found among the Drouët collection in Dijon, thus another contact. This label is entirely handwritten, which may indicate is originates from an earlier date (?).

Eudel in Drouet

It is not known where Eudel’s other shells may have ended up and if their original labels have been retained or not.

Duchamps R. 1999. Philippe Dautzenberg et son temps. Apex 14 (hors séries):1–45.

General de Lamothe: collection and collectors

General Léon de Lamothe (1849–1936) is a French geologist and malacologist whose collections are housed in Muséum d’Histoire naturelle in Grenoble. He brought together a large collection, building upon his father’s collection. Benjamin de Lamothe (1799–1884) was a colonel and we know he had collected molluscs himself, as evidenced by some labels (“collection de mon père et recueilli par lui”). This collection contained a few hundreds lots of specimens. His son Léon increased this collection by collecting especially in Algeria, when he was there in garrison during the 1910s. With an important network of conchologists, he practiced exchanges and purchases to constitute a worlwide collection that contained both marine and continental, with local and exotical species. L. de Lamothe worked in close cooperation with Philippe Dautzenberg (1849–1935), the most frequent name who appears in his collection. Dautzenberg gave him (or exchanged with him) many specimens, identified his samples and validated them before publication (e.g.: de Lamothe published some catalogues for the Algerian malacofauna, in particular Arzew and Mostaganem).


Another important collaborator of de Lamothe was the Commandant L. Morlet (1823–1892) who provided him with many exotical species.
The names of many other collectors can also be found in his collection: General Léon de Beylié (1849–1910), a patron for Musée de Grenoble (ethnology and archeology), Captain Le Chatelier, Marquis de Monterosato, Henri Gouin, Chaper, Darbois, Flamand, Sowerby, Newcombe, Smith, etc. He purchased molluscs from Vigné, Géret and most of all, Boulanger. Ancey is mentioned as a persons who performed the determinations. Finally a large serie of molluscs came from the Gruvel mission in 1909–1910 (with Chudeau along the coast of the West African) and another from “Germain’s mission in 1907” (probably the mission of Chudeau in Lake Chad).

[1] Annotated copy of L. de Lamothe’s work about marine malacology in MHNGr.

Tales from a shell cabinet

In the latest SHNH Newsletter the following note was published, which not only gives an amusing and interesting little story, but also reveals the existence of a British conchologist not yet listed in Coan & Kabat (2016): Samuel Smith (1802–1892).

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.42.41 Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.43.52
Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.44.38 Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.45.14

Nelson EC. 2016. Tales from a shell cabinet. An old lady’s house burgled. Society for the History of Natural History, Newsletter 110: 17–19.

The fate of the Morelet collection

When Arthur Morelet died in August 1892 he left a considerable collection of shells (but due to lack of an inventory we do not know the precise size of the collection). His two daughters soon decided to sell it and in the Crosse archive we found two letters that allow for a partial reconstruction [1].

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-04 om 21.42.44Schermafbeelding 2016-08-04 om 21.43.13

The first letter, dated 31 October 1892 by his daughter Marie Huguette Aurélie [2], also on behalf of her sister, was written with misspellings (“Nous sommes bien embarassées ma soeur et moi, pour la vente de la conchyliologie de mon pauvre père et vraiment j’ai recours à vous comme à un ami. Que nous conseillez-vous de faire et dans quels journaux faut-il faire des annonces. / M. Ponsonby m’écrit que M. Sowerby de Londres achèterait la collection en bloc. / Peut-on s’en rapporter à ce Monsieur, que vous devez connaître je pense. / enfin, Monsieur, comment devons-nous nous y prendre pour faire connaître aux Etats-Unis la vente de la collection ?”). It may be summarised as follows: the two ladies wanted advice from Crosse about the sale of the collection and asked him if Sowerby (who was prepared to buy everything) was a good choice and if there was a possibility to find someone in the U.S.A. who would be interested in the collection.

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-04 om 21.41.40

The second letter was written by Emile Striffling, notary at Dijon, on 24 November 1892 and made clear that the collection had been sold to the shell dealer Hugh Fulton but that he had asked for type material still in the possession of Crosse (“la collection de coquilles a été vendue à Monsieur Fulton de Londres. Celui-ci s’entendra avec vous pour la reunion des types qui sont entre vos mains mais il me demande la nomenclature de vos types. Voulez-vous avoir l’obligance de me l’adresser pour Dimanche, M. Fulton devant venir à Velars ce jour là?”).

Fulton must have been very quick to offer parts of the collection to his clients, because already a few months later (4 February 1893) the British Museum (now NHMUK) started the registration of many lots from Morelet’s collection. Other parts have ended up in the MHNG (Breure, 2016), MNHN (likely via de former collection of the Journal de Conchyliologie), and NMW in Europe, and MCZ and ANSP in the U.S.A. Pilsbry (1893) reported that the ANSP had obtained “over 250 species of land and fresh-water shells, mainly of Africa, India and South America. As they are all new to the collection, and accompanied by reliable data, the great value of the series will be apparent. The additions to our collection of Helices are especially notable, many rare and long needed species being secured”. Another part of Morelet’s collection came to the same museum via the collection of Andrew D. Brown (who died in 1887), with whom Morelet apparently had been in exchange.

Although Sowerby and Fulton may have been competitors in this case, they soon joined forces and established their firm Sowerby & Fulton in 1897. It cannot be excluded a priori that some errant lots from the Morelet collection were dispersed under this label after that date.

Breure ASH. 2016. Annotated type catalogue of the Orthalicoidea (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Stylommatophora) in the Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Geneva. Revue suisse de Zoologie 123: 57–103.
Pilsbry HA. 1893. Report of the Conservator of the Conchological Section. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 45: 563–565.

[1] The Crosse archive is in the private possession of W. Backhuys.
[2] She was the eldest daughter of Morelet; the letter was written on paper with black margins, typically used by people who recently lost a relative.