Chap. II.


from Knowle soon after his death. Scarcely any other Book III, purchase of like value in the Natural-History Department was HISTORY

cond After the OF THE made for more than twenty years afterwards. After the purchase of the Montagu Collection, the growth of that department depended, as it had mainly depended before it, on the acquisitions made for the Public by the several naturalists who took part in the Voyages of Discovery or whose chance collections, made in the course of ordinary duty, came to be at the disposal of the British Admiralty.

Many of those naturalists were men of marked ability. Of necessity, their explorations were attended with much curious adventure. To detail their researches and vicissitudes would form—without much credit to the writerman interesting chapter, the materials of which are superabundant. But, at present, it must needs be matter of hope, not of performance.

The distinctive progress of the Natural-History Col. lections, from comparative and relative poverty, to a creditable place amongst rival collections, connects itself preeminently with the labours of Dr. John Edward GRAY, who will hereafter be remembered as the ablest keeper and organizer those collections have hitherto had. Dr. GRAY is now (1870) in the forty-sixth year of his public service at the British Museum, which he entered as an Assistant, in 1824. He is widely known by his able edition of GRIFFITHS' Animal Kingdom, by his Illustrations of Indian Zoology, by his account of the famous Derby Menagerie at Knowsley, and by his Manual of British Shells; but his least ostensible publications rank among the most conclusive proofs both of his ability and of his zeal for the public service. Dr. GRAY has always advocated the publication—to use Mr. CarLYLE's words when under interrogatory by the Museum

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Commissioners of 1848–of all sorts of Catalogues. It
int im
is to him that the Public owe the admirable helps to the
study of natural history which have been afforded by the
long series of inventories, guides, and nomenclators, the
publication of which began, at his instance, in the year
1 844, and has been unceasingly pursued. A mere list of
the various printed synopses which have grown out of
Dr. Gray's suggestion of 1844 would fill many such pages
as that which the reader has now before him. The conse-
quence is, that in no department of the Museum can the
student, as yet, economise his time as he can economise it
in the Natural-History Department. Printed, not Manu-
script, Catalogues mean time saved; disappointment
avoided; study fructified. No literary labour brings so
little of credit as does the work of the Catalogue-maker.
None better deserves the gratitude of scholars, as well as of
the general mass of visitors.

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Dr. Gray became Keeper of Zoology in 1840. Four years earlier, he had given to Sir Benjamin Hawes' Committee a striking account of the condition of that department, illustrating it by comparisons with the corresponding Collections in Paris, which may thus (not without unavoidable injustice) be abridged :— The species of mammalia then in the Museum were four hundred and five; the species of birds were two thousand four hundred, illustrated by four thousand six hundred and fifty-nine individual specimens. At that date, the latest accessible data assigned to the Paris Collection about five hundred species of mammals, and about two thousand three hundred species of birds, illustrated by nearly six thousand specimens. The Museum series of birds was almost equally rich in the orders, taken generally; but in gallinaceous birds it was more than proportionately rich, a

Book III,


See Minutes

large number of splendid examples having been received Book III

· Chap. II. from India. In the birds of Africa, of Brazil, and of lista Northern Europe, also, the Museum was already exceptionally well-stored.

The special value of the Ornithological Collection undoubtedly showed that it had been more elaborately cared for than had been some other parts of natural history. But the extent and richness of the bird gallery, even at this period, is not to be ascribed merely to a desire to delight the eyes of a crowd of visitors. For scientific purposes, a collection of birds must be more largely-planned and better filled than a collection of mammals, or one of fish. In birds, the essential characters of a considerable group of individual specimens may be identical and their colours entirely different. Besides the numerous diversities attendant upon age and sex, the very date at which a bird is killed may produce variations which have their interest for the scientific of Evidence

1836, p. 238. student.

The number of species of reptiles was in 1836 about six hundred, illustrated by about one thousand three hundred specimens. This number was much inferior to that of the Museum at Paris, but it exceeded by one third the number of species in the Vienna Museum, and almost by Ibid., p. 212 one half the then number at Berlin.

The species of fish amounted to nearly a thousand, but this was hardly the fourth of the great collection at Paris, although it probably exceeded every other, or almost every other, Continental collection of the same date. Of shells, the Museum number of species was four thousand and twenty-five (exclusive of fossils), illustrated by about fifteen thousand individuals. This number of species was at par with that of Paris; much superior both to Berlin and to Leyden; but it was far from representing positive—as dis.

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tinguished from comparative-wealth. There were already, in 1836, more than nine thousand kuown species of shells.

It was further shown in the evidence that, even under the arrangements of 1836, the facilities of public access equalled those given at the most liberal of the Continental Museums, and considerably exceeded those which obtained at fully four-fifths of their number.

Among the many services rendered to the Museum by Dr. Gray, one is of too important a character to be passed over, even in a notice so brief as this must needs be. The large bequest in Zoology of Major-General HARDWICKE grew out of a stipulation made by Dr. Gray, when he undertook, at General HARDWICKE's request, the editorship of the Illustrations of Indian Zoology. A long labour brought to the editor no pecuniary return, but it brought an important collection to the British Public in the first instance, and eventually a large augmentation of what had been originally given.



In March, 1849, the course of inquiries pursued by Lord ELLESMERE's Commission led to a new review of the growth of the Natural History Collections, and more especially of the Zoology. It applied in particular to the twelve or thirteen years which had then elapsed since the prior inquiries of 1835-1836. The statement possesses much interest, but it is occasionally deficient in that systematic and necessary distinction between species and specimens which characterised the evidence of 1836. In brief, however, it may be said, that in the eight years extending between June, 1840, and June, 1848, twenty-nine thousand five hundred and ninety-five specimens of vertebrated animals were added to the Museum galleries and storehouses. Of these, five thousand seven hundred and ninety

Chap. II.


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seven were mammals; thirteen thousand four hundred and Book III, fourteen were birds ; four thousand one hundred and twelve Histori reptiles; and six thousand two hundred and seventy-two were fish. The number of specimens of annulose animals added during the same period was seventy-three thousand five hundred and sixty-three : and that of mollusca and radiata, fifty-seven thousand six hundred and ten.

These large additions comprised extensive gatherings made by Dyson in Venezuela, and in various parts of North America ; by GARDINER and Clausen in Brazil; by GOSSE in Jamaica ; by GOULD, GILBERT, and STEPHENSON, in Australia and in New Zealand; by HARTWEG in Mexico; by Gounor in Columbia ; by VERREAUX and Smitu in South Africa ; by Frazer in Tunis; and by Bridges in Chili and in some other parts of South America.

Of the splendid collections made by Mr. Hodgson in India, some more detailed mention must be made hereafter.

Meanwhile, on the Continent of Europe, political com- Check in motion had seriously checked the due progress of scientific collections. Britain had been making unwonted strides in the improvement of its Museum, at the very time when ON THE most of the Continental States had allowed their fine 1845-1855. Museums to remain almost stationary. In mammals, birds, and shells, the British Museum had placed itself in the first rank. Only in reptiles, fish, and crustacea, could even Paris now claim superiority. Those classes had there engaged for a long series of years the unremitting research and labour of such naturalists as CUVIER, DUMERIL, VALENCIENNES, and MILNE-EDWARDS ; and their relative wealth of specimens it will be hard to overtake. In insects, the Museum Collection vies with that of Paris in point of extent, and excels it in point of arrangement.



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