Tag Archives: biohistory

Some mollusc drawings

A paper not about Neotropical molluscs but still relevant as it contains some information about the Australasian family of the Orthalicoidea, is the small paper by Topley about the illustrator Guy Wilkins.

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One of the figures is reproduced here showing the drawing and the actual shell of one of Tom Pain’s types of Placostylus. It is a variety that has meanwhile been put in synonymy. The paper has other examples, both of Placostylus specimens as well as some other genera, and is a nice tidbit which tells some anecdotical news that adds colour to the history of malacology.

Topley, P., 2019. Some mollusc drawings by Guy Wilkins. – Mollusc World, 51: 21-23.

Where is the Miller collection?

Just published: a paper on Konrad Miller, giving a short biography and a list of described taxa. Most of his fossil material has been located, but for me the big question is: where is the Miller collection with Recent material from Ecuador?

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The above label shows his handwriting, and can thus be a guidance for searches in museums. Likely in Germany, but I also probed the Salzburg collection (in vain!) as he bequeathed in later life his legacy to Salzburg University.

Any suggestions about his Ecuadorian material would be very helpful.

Breure, A.S.H. A little-known German naturalist: Konrad Miller (1844-1933) and his malacological contributions.  Archiv für Molluskenkunde, 148 (2): 129-136.

Malacological contacts mid-19th century

This time attention for a recent paper about the history of malacology, with a sociological twist: Breure & Heiberger published a study about contacts between malacologists in the mid-19th century and applied network analysis on their data.

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The abstract reads as follows:

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This project is continued to span the period 1800-1920 in order to investigate the longitudinal development of the processes observed.

Breure, A.S.H. & Heiberger, R.H. Reconstructing science networks from the past: eponyms between malacological authors in the mid-19th century. – Journal of Historical Network Research, 3 (1): 92-117.

Crosse bio-bibliography

Hippolyte Crosse is for many malacologists a well-known name, but only limited information is until now published about his life and work. Just published: an extensive biography with data on his collection and his work for the Journal de Conchyliologie, his correspondents, an extended collation of this Journal for the years 1850-1900, an analysis of the subscribers to this Journal in the same period, a comparison with the German journal Malakozoologische Blätter, a collation of the molluscan parts of the Mission au Mexique et Guatemala (1870-1902), and a bibliography of Crosse’s publications.

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We trust this will be useful for many malacologists, not only those interested in Neotropical snails.

Breure A. S. H. & Fontaine B., 2019. Joseph Charles Hippolyte Crosse (1826–1898) and his contributions to malacology: a biography and bibliography. Colligo, 2(3) [Hors Serie 1]. Link to online full-text


New Granada

Working on a paper related to Colombian Drymaeus reveals some well-known puzzles about old localities who have not been traced again. In fact, the denomination of the area as “New Grenada” is somewhat of a puzzle, as the meaning of that terminology has shifted over time.
Just out of curiosity, I searched for pictures on “New Grenada” in Google. I found a few, and the shift in what has to be called “New Grenada” is clearly illustrated in the following time-series.


Map of New Grenada
Author: John Pilkerton, 1811. Scale 1:3,400,000. Publshers: Cadell & Davies; Longman, Hurst, Rees, Ome & Brown, London



Map of the Kingdom of New Grenada
Author: Hall Sidney, 1827. Scale 1:5,700,000. Publisher: Caddell, London.



Map of Venezuela, New Grenada & Equador
Author: Henny Tanner, 1836. Scale 1:6,969,600. Publisher: H.S. Tanner, Philadelphia

The first map shows that New Grenada at one time reached the borders of the Río Marañon, now in the territory of Perú. The last map is especially interesting, since it depicts the situation at the time from which many type material originate, that can still be found in museum collections. What struck me is the very different limitation of the ‘Provinces” or “Departments”. Colombia consisted in the mid-19th century of four parts: Cauca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena and Boyacá. Their geographical limits are, however, rather different from their current, being far more extensive. When interpreting old locality labels this knowledge can be very helpful to pinpoint certain places, which might not be located where one would expect them with today’s map in front.

Just an example of some puzzles that I consider solved, where some geographical knowledge and modern facilities go hand in hand. One of the collectors who travelled extensively through Colombia at that time was Thomas Bland (1809-1885). Many of his collected material was studied by Pilsbry during his work for the Manual of Conchology. But quite often modern authors may be puzzled about some of the places that were visited by Bland.
There were three Drymaeus species with localities originating from Bland that, at first, I was unable to locate. “Between Salamina and Cabuyal, west of Ervé” was one of them, a locality reported for D. bogotensis (Pfeiffer). I looked up Ervé in the GNS gazetteer but nothing turned up. On the other hand, Salamina and Cabuyal – though not sounding like common names – turned up many times from different parts of Colombia. I decided to leave it and went on with my revision.
Another puzzling locality was “near Santa Ana”, type locality of D. decoratus goniobasis Pilsbry, based on material collected by Bland. When I looked up “Santa Ana” in the gazetteer, many places of that name turned up from all over the country.
Finally, I came to D. geometricus (Pfeiffer), for which Pilsbry had another locality from Bland: “Forests in the mountains below Ervé, on the road to Santa Ana”. I’m unaware if there has anything been published about the journeys of Bland in Colombia, but now I had three parts of a puzzle and I decided to find some solution. First the place “Ervé”. This is a highly unusual spelling in Spanish, so it could be phonetical. I decided to look for “erve” in the GNS database, but not with “starts with” option enabled, but with the “contains” option instead. It turned up 6 names, of which 3 could be skipped right away. I ended up with “Páramo de Herveo” and two variants of the populated place “Herveo”, all at or very close to 05° 05′ 00″ N 075° 10′ 00″ W, which is in Dept. Tolima. The first puzzle bit was in place.
The next step was to find Santa Ana, which could not be far away. When I scrutinized the list of names I did not find a place with a modern name that seemed logical to me. Then I was struck by the name Falán in the list, with a variant name Santa Ana, and located 25 km ENE of Herveo. That seemed logical to me, both places are in the region of Fresno in the upper Magdalena valley, from which the species have been reported.
Then finally Salamina and Cabuyal. With the location of Herveo in mind I looked through all the records for these names in the GNS gazetteer. Salamina is in Dept. Caldas, nearly 50 km NW of Herveo. And there is a “Quebrada Cabuyal” in Tolima, 60 km SE of Herveo. Both places are marked with red in the map below, while the three localties of the Drymaeus species mentioned are marked with yellow. Three species finally found their home.


This post was originally published in my previous blog in November 2007; thanks to the WaybackMachine I’m able to re-publish it here.

Auguste Ghiesbreght’s travels in Mexico

Through serendipity I found an interesting paper on Auguste Ghiesbreght and his collecting work in Mexico (Schätti et al., 2018). Ghiesbreght (1812-1893) was a Belgian botanist, who lived for several decades in Mexico and collected plants, animals and other natural history objects, which were shipped to Europe for identification. His malacological material was used e.g. by Nyst, L. Pfeiffer and Crosse and P. Fischer.

Although the paper focusses on frogs, snakes and lizards, the content is interesting as the land snails were in all likelihood collected by Ghiesbreght during the same trip. He sent end 1841 a shipment which contained among others “sixty-two terrestrial snails (24 spp.)”.

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Despite some biographical data having been published previously, a correct itinerary of his travels through Mexico has never been detailed and as such this paper fills a gap which may help to locate the occurrences of some species.

Schätti, B., Ineich, I & Kucharzewski, C., 2018. Auguste Ghiesbreght’s natural history exploration in Oaxaca and other parts of Mexico until 1854. – Acta Zoológica Mexicana (n.s.) 34: e3411184 (22 pp.).

Roeters van Lennep (1820-1879)

Freshly pressed: a new paper on the history of malacology, i.e. about the 19th Century Dutch cabinet collector H.C. Roeters van Lennep.

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H.C. Roeters van Lennep was one of the most famous Dutch shell collectors during the mid-19th century, for whom we here present new and additional biographical information. His collection was auctioned in 1876, but so far only a limited amount of information has been published on this topic. The details of the auction are reconstructed on the basis of his correspondence with H. Crosse. Such new information provides an insight into who buyers were during the auction, which prices were realised, and where parts of the material ended up. There ap- pears to have been a second auction in 1879 where possibly a large part of the remainder of the first auction was sold.

Breure, A.S.H. & Backhuys, W. Herman Christiaan Roeters van Lennep (1820-1879) and the auction of his collection. – Spirula, 418: 10-16.

Colonel Messager: a new paper

Freshly pressed: a new paper on the mysterious ‘Colonel Messager’ that is mentioned in the literature. This research was based on archival material in the Dautzenberg collection in Brussels, and the Messager material that is present in Paris.

The abstract reads: “We present a brief biography of Louis Gabriel Martin Messager, a French military who served in several French colonies during the last part of the 19th century and who is mentioned several time in the malacological literature as ‘Colonel Messager’. We present details on his collecting activities, also reflected in his correspondence to Bavay and Martel, and illustrated by some samples from his former collection. Also a list of eponyms is included”.

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Unfortunately we have been unable to find a picture of Messager, hence his name remains somewhat mysterious in the end.

Breure, A.S.H. & Páll-Gergely, B., 2019. More than just a name: Colonel Messager and his correspondents. – Zoosystema, 41 (2): 7-19. Link

Contributions of Morretes

Recently a paper was published on the contributions of a Brazilian malacologist, Federico Lange de Morretes (Gernet et al., 2018). The text is in Portuguese, but there is also an abstract in English: “Frederico Lange de Morretes was born on May 5, 1892, in the municipality of Morretes, Paraná, Brazil. A renowned plastic artist, he was also an important malacologist, and his scientific production in the area made him a reference for Brazilian researchers. The main objective of this paper is to make a commented compilation of the malacological studies produced by him. He published 13 scientific papers in the area of malacology, eight of them related to the description of 25 new species, two new genera and three subgenera. He also wrote three institutional technical reports on activities carried out at the Museu Paulista and at the Museu Paranaense”. He died in 1954.

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The paper contains illustrations of the type material of the newly described taxa by Morretes, one figure of which is copied above. The authors made me aware there are two persons with similar names, Frederico Godefredo Lange de Morretes and Frederico Waldemar Lange. The first was a malacologist, the latter a palaeontologist; both worked in Museu Paranaense in the 1950s. Only the latter is mentioned in ‘2400 years of malacology’ (ed. 2018) but apparently with the wrong years of birth and death, which was the source of confusion for these two semi-homonyms.

Gernet, M., et al., 2018. A contribuição de Frederico Lange de Morretes para a malacologia brasileira. – Arquivos de Zoología, 49 (3): 153-165.


New edition of ‘2400 years’

Eugene Coan and Alan Kabat have recently published an update of their index to biographical and bibliographical works on malacologists. The main text has been updated with new information, as well as Annex 1 (collations of books); the other two annexes have not changed.

The download page may be here: http://www.malacological.org/2004_malacology.html.