Category Archives: Varia

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).

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”

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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?”…

Moricand: a letter in a book

A large collection of reprints and separata are owned by the library of the Centre de conservation et d’étude des collections in Lyon. Reading a binded volume of miscellanea of Stefano Moricand (1779-1854), we found inside a letter written by Moricand addressed to Ange-Paulin Terver (1798-1875). The handwritting style is quite similar to his correspondant, with a minute handwritting and thick downstrokes.

The letter is dated on 21 May, 1836, and reads as follows.

“Monsieur, j’ai reçu dans le temps l’ouvrage de Mr. Michaud que vous avez bien voulu m’envoyer ; qui m’a fait grand plaisir. Ayant inutilement cherché et attendu une occasion pour vous faire passer mes petits mémoires & craignant que mon silence en se prolongeant se pût être mal interprété, je me décide à vous les envoyer par la messagerie, ils vous serviront de catalogue pour vos desiderata, car je ne crois pas avoir conservé de note de ce que je vous ai envoyé. Quand vous recevrez vos coquilles d’Alger je me recommande à votre bon souvenir; je vous prie d’agréer l’assurance de mon (ill.) dévouement. Stefano Morricand” [signed with double r].

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[1]

The interpretation of this letter sheds a new light on the activities of Terver. As collaborator of Michaud, he drew the lithographs for the Supplement to Draparnaud (Michaud 1831); this was likely the book sent to Moricand. Terver was apparently preparing his study of the Algerian fauna (which was published in 1839). From the letter is becomes obvious that Moricand and Terver exchanged not only books but also shells. And finally, we learn that the catalogues of Moricand (1834, 1836) were likely to be used to mark the oblata!

Note:
[1] Source: CCEC.

References:
Michaud G. 1831. Complément de l’Histoire naturelle des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles de la France, de J. P. R. Draparnaud. Paris / Montpellier, 1–128, pl. XIV-XVI.
Moricand S. 1834. Note sur quelques espèces nouvelles de coquilles terrestres. Mémoires de la Société de Physique et d’Histoire naturelle de Genève 6: 537-543, pl. I.
Moricand S. 1836. Mémoire sur les coquilles terrestres et fluviatiles envoyées de Bahia par M. S. Blanchet. Mémoires de la Société de Physique et d’Histoire naturelle de Genève 7 (2): 415-446, pl. II.
Terver A-P. 1839. Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles observés dans les possessions françaises au nord de l’Afrique. Paris / Lyon: J.-B. Baillière, Crochard & Savy, 1–39, 4 pl.

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).

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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).

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

Shells dealers

From the middle of 19th century, a strongly development of shell trade is observed, in particular, the retail sale and the sale by mail order (see also Dance, 1966, 1969).

Hermann Rolle (1864–1929) was a famous German dealer in Berlin specialised in ornithology and conchology. He acquired several important collections and stocks of material (e.g. Möllendorf). His store was immense, especially for palaearctic shells. We have a copy of his catalogue which has to be dated ca. 1894 [1]. The prices are given in Deutsche mark, but foreign customers found the exchange rates directly on the cover.

Sowerby & Fulton is another well-known house for shells, based in London. The mail order catalogue is written like a scientific publication, including a systematic order following the last classification (Pilsbry and Tryon’s Manual of Conchology; Sykes (1900) for Achatinellidae; Kobelt & Möllendorf (1890), etc.), with genera, subgenera and sections, authors for species and synonyms for genera, e.g.Chondrella 1871 = Diadema 1868 non Schaum 1817 = Garrettia 1874)”. Sowerby & Fulton wanted to be always up-to-date with a serious proposal and precise identifications.

Each booklet provides an index of generic names. The copy we have is dated between 1902 to 1906 [2] and it includes six booklets:
Inoperculate land shells (April 1902)
Cephalopoda, Pteropoda, Gastropoda (marine and freshwater) and Scaphopoda (April 1903)
Pelecypoda and Brachiopoda (June 1903)
Operculate land shells (1906)
For these five booklets, the prices are not given: specimens are sent on approval.
Recent shells (August 1902) is a compendium with a wide selection (almost 900 genera); the prices are given in shillings, with francs and mark equivalent.

Compared to Rolle’s catalogue, the scope is entirely on the worldwide malacofauna. The number of species is very substantial. Both catalogues were adressed to French, English and German collectors (the introduction in Rolle’s catalogue is even provided in three languages); many conchologists purchased specimens from these two shell suppliers and material of Rolle and Sowerby & Fulton can be found in most European museums.

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Rolle Sowerby & Fulton

Reference:
Dance SP. 1969. Rare shells. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 128 p.

[1, 2] Source: Audibert, private library