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From the Stacks 

June 21, 2013

A Smackdown for Bonzo

This month’s Illustration Smackdown takes a look at the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes.  One of the great apes, chimpanzees are, as these things go, closely related to humans. But how close? You can see the current classification chart here, courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Life.

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences

(c) California Academy of Sciences


In the 1980s the Jane Goodall Institute “moved to the San Francisco offices of the California Academy of Sciences, where it functioned essentially as a USA/Africa “communication link” and as a repository for files.” (source) and Ms. Goodall continued to have a relationship with the academy after the JGI moved to DC.  She came to the Academy in 2008 to lecture and  promote her pioneering work in primatology. The above images are attributed to Jane Goodall and Hugo VanLanwick

(c) Diane T Sands. carbon dust on Ross board

(c) Diane T Sands. carbon dust on Ross board

Comparative anatomy is the study of the difference and similarities of different organisms. I will admit to having a fondness for comparing bones. There is something about placing the same bone from different species next to each other that I find both instructive and aesthetically pleasing. To this end, I created the above image with Pan troglodytes on the left and Homo sapiens on the right. The obvious differences in teeth point to differences in diet and acquisition of food. While both are omnivores, the chimpanzees large canines speak to the ripping and tearing of meat, while humans reduced canines likely came about from years of cutting bite sized portions via tool use. Also evident is the difference in size of the brain case. The human cerebrum is much larger than that of the chimpanzee. The extensive development of this cortex in humans is believed to distinguish the human brain from those of other animals

Filed under: Archives finds,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 5:58 pm

June 14, 2013

Mystery in the Stacks, Part II

Last month I wrote about Leverett Mills Loomis, the two Guadalupe Storm Petrels, and the other items he rescued from the fire that destroyed the California Academy of Sciences in the wake of the 1906 earthquake. I discussed our fine copy of Marc Athanse Parfait Oeillet Des Murs’ Iconographie Ornithologique, which I have referenced multiple times over the years without realizing that Loomis had saved it. If you’d like to view a complete copy of this beautiful work online, visit the Biodiversity Heritage Library to see the Smithsonian’s copy.

I promised to return and discuss the part of Loomis’ letter of May 7, 1906 reading:

As I wanted to be the first donor to the Academy’s new ornithological library, I put Brown’s illustrations under my arm as I passed the store-room.

 This read to me as if Loomis was in possession of some of Captain Thomas Brown’s hand colored engravings, originally issued in 1835 as Illustrations of the American Ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte, Prince of Musignano… The work was intended to serve as the illustrated atlas accompanying the original European edition of Alexander Wilson’s groundbreaking American Ornithology, first issued in Philadelphia between 1808 and 1814.

I found this shocking to say the least. I had never seen a copy of Brown’s Illustrations in the Library, and I only 12 copies are listed in OCLC WorldCat. It is a beautiful work, considered one of the rarest illustrated ornithologies, issued in Royal Folio (20 inches tall) with vividly colored plates.

plate3-web                  plate4-web

(Left: Plate 16 “Carolina Parrot,” Yellow-billed Cuckoo,” and “Black-billed Cuckoo.” Right: Unnumbered plate “Honduras Turkey.” Both from Illustrations of the American Ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte.)

None of the records I examined gave any clue as to what Loomis had done with “Brown’s Illustrations.” Remembering that the Rare Book collections were once upon a time cataloged differently than (and housed separately from) the rest of the Library, I decided to scan the shelves to see if anything seemed to fit the bill.

Scanning the oversize shelves in the range of QL674 – QL682 (the classification of the other Wilson volumes), I figured I might find a manila folder with a few loose plates, or something similar. Imagine my surprise at finding what appeared to be a large, complete folio volume, with a call number on a tag (made on a typewriter) but with no barcode or other label. A bookplate on the pastedown reads “Presented by Leverett Mills Loomis April 18, 1906.” It seems unlikely that Loomis would make a gift to the Library while the City was engulfed in flames, so I’m going to wager that this bookplate was created long after the book was rescued.

When I opened the volume, I discovered an inscription (in Latin) apparently written by Behr, gifting this book to Loomis in July of 1900 or 1901.


(Inscription from H.H. Behr to Leverett Mills Loomis, from Illustrations of the American Ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte.)

The first plate in the book also boasts the inscription “Property of H. H. Behr” faintly in the upper right.


(Plate 1 “California Vulture” From Illustrations of the American Ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte.)

Dr. Behr served as Vice President of the California Academy of Sciences and was an accomplished physician, collector of butterflies, and Curator of Entomology, as well as a speaker and scholar of at least six languages. He passed away in 1904 at the age of 85, and was lovingly eulogized by his Academy colleagues.

It would seem these are the illustrations Loomis saved in 1906; however, I have found no record of when this book came to the Academy Library. It was possibly transferred after Loomis’ death in 1928, or at some point when the Ornithology department merged their library with the Main collection. Regardless, we will soon finish cataloging the book, making 13 OCLC libraries with a copy of Illustrations of the American Ornithology of Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte by Captain Thomas Brown.

Becky Morin
Head Librarian

Filed under: Academy History,Rare Books — Librarian @ 9:00 pm

The Reading Room has gone batty!

For those of you able to stop by the Library Reading Room, there is a newly installed exhibit featuring BATS!

Nearly 20% of all mammals are bats. There are roughly 1,240 bat species worldwide. The order Chiroptera (from the Greek, meaning “hand-wing”) is broken into two subclasses. The megachiroptera are large, primarily fruit-eating bats that rely on sight and smell to locate their food. The microchiroptera feed on insects, which they locate via echolocation.

bats from Buffon's Natural History, 1797

bats from Buffon’s Natural History, 1797, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I saw this image on the  Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr stream . It is from Buffon’s Natural history, containing a theory of the earth, a general history of man, of the brute creation, and of vegetables, minerals, &c. &c. From the French, with notes by the translator.  London:1797-1807. And honestly, at first I thought they were some weird sheep, or blocky, ungulate-sized mice. What else for a scientific illustrator to do, but create an improved image?


(c) Diane T Sands 2013, pastel on paper

The three bats presented in the Buffon image done here in pastel, from top to bottom:

  • Greater Bulldog bat, Nolctilio nigrita

  • Ternat or Greater Yellow House bat, Pteropus vulgaris

  • Senegal bat, Vespertilio nigrita

The bat exhibit will be on display in the Library Reading Room through the end of 2013.

Filed under: Exhibits,Rare Books,Scientific Illustration,Smackdown — Dsands @ 7:18 pm

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