Monday, December 14, 2009
Click here for some info on organic farming without the use of pesticides! and here for bicycle safety tips!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
With the Thanksgiving Day holiday approaching this week, it seemed appropriate to dedicate this week's book of the week to the Thanksgiving holiday staple - the turkey. Thus, this week's book of the week, Turkey Raising by Harry Miles Lamon (1922), served as a practical guide for turkey farmers during the first quarter of the twentieth century.
The turkey's origin is thought to come from the pheasant, as turkeys are thought to have diverged from this line around eleven million years ago. One of the first animals domesticated in America, the bird has had an interesting history in this continent, which included the dedication of two religious festivals held each year by the Aztec people in Mexico to the species, use of the bird in sacred Mayan ceremonies, as well as a long history as a hunted bird of prey among the native peoples in this land.
The name "turkey" has several proposed origins. For instance, some insist that Christopher Columbus called the birds "tuka," which is the Tamil word for peacock, and that turkey is a derivative of this word. Others postulate that Luis de Torres, a physician sailing with Columbus, called the animal "tukki," which means "big bird" in Hebrew. Still others say that the North American Indian name for the birds was "firkee," and turkey is simply a long-standing mis-pronunciation of the name.
There is also some disagreement over where the tradition of eating a turkey at Thanksgiving emerged from. For instance, it is possible that the early settlers of the Mayflower, being influenced by the Northeastern American Indians in their search for food, began hunting this abundant fowl at the instruction of their Native American friends, and that a turkey was actually present at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Other experts believe that the first use of the turkey in a Thanksgiving meal was actually at the celebration of the English Harvest Home Festival observed by the early colonists at Jamestown.
Regardless of the origin of the use of the turkey at Thanksgiving feasts, guides such as Lamon's Turkey Raising strived to serve as an uncomplicated, concise yet inclusive discussion of the art of turkey raising, and this example includes such information as the history and extent of the industry, guidelines for mating and showing turkeys, tips of egg incubation, marketing, and insect, disease and predatory animal control. One interesting source of information within the book is a breakdown of the prices paid to producers of turkeys from the years 1915-1920 in various areas of the country. For example, on Nov. 15, 1915 in Texas, turkey meat fetched 11.3 cents per pound, while the same date and year in Washington, D.C. demanded an 18 cents per pound price. Constrastingly, on November 15, 1920 in Texas, a pound of turkey meat was worth 25 cents, and in Washington it earned 38 cents per pound. The national average for a pound of turkey meat in 1915 was 14.8 cents, while it raised to 31.8 cents per pound by 1920.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, whether you do so with turkey, tofurkey, or some other food completely, consider taking a look at this interesting delve into the early history of turkey raising in the United States. Happy Thanksgiving!
This week's book of the week, Turkey Raising by Harry Miles Lamon (1922), was contributed by The University of California Digital Library.
Monday, November 16, 2009
- The BHL collection has added over 21,000 new titles (that’s over 28,000 new volumes) as a result of ingesting open access texts scanned by Internet Archive, bringing the total collection (to date - 17 Nov 2009) to 69,000 volumes! Users will now have access to biodiversity related content from the major university and research institutions that have partnered with the Internet Archive such as the California Digital Library. By aggregating biodiversity literature into its collection from other sources, BHL is increasing its ability to serve as a definitive resource for access to the world’s biodiversity literature.
- New links to documentation and user tutorials are being added. These links are part of a new website (actually a wiki) dedicated to providing users with more information about the BHL project overall, its history, member institutions, and developments for the future. Still in its early stages of development, the new wiki will serve as a one-stop-shop for communication about the BHL collection, as well as its tools and services.
- BHL taxonomic name data now have direct links to Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) pages via a new EOL icon, such as this page on the Orca, Orcinus orca, online at http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/7869924. When viewing the “Names on this page” panel in the BHL Portal, an EOL icon will appear next to the taxon or binomial linking to the corresponding page on the EOL website. Users will be merely a click away to EOL content!
In the history of scientific serials, every now and then out of the great list of titles emerges a singular work from an organization of scientists or a society. Records show that the Brooklyn Conchological Club published only a single volume - Volume 1, Number 1 (1907) - of the Bulletin of the Brooklyn Conchological Club.
The volume is 14 pages in length, has seven pen and ink figures and seven short articles, which are: "Abnormal Shells," by S.C. Wheat; "A New Varietal Form of Turbo Petholatus," by Maxwell Smith; "Shells in City Gardens and Ponds," by S.C. Wheat; "Phorus Conchyliophora," by F.W. Weaver; "List of Long Island Shell," by S.C. Wheat; "Shall we have an American Conchological Society" and "Memorandum of Suggestions for the Organization of a National Conchological Society," by Wm. H. Dall.
One order of business which was presented on page seven of this issue was reporting on the decision to change from the Brooklyn Conchological Club to the American Conchological Society, thereby taking a one time "section" of the Department of Natural History of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and looking towards creating a national society.
In the article entitled "Shells in the City Gardens and Ponds," Silas C. Wheat writes, "In my garden in the heart of Brooklyn are innumerable Vallonia pulchella Müller. I have taken 50 good specimens from a space four inches square. In midwinter 16 were found packed in a bit of hollow stem of a plant, the shells fitting snugly in the orifice, and all occupying a little more than an inch in length. In November I have found them active under a half inch of earth and snow. One of these beautiful creatures took its winter nap on the stem of a tropical tree in my window, where the sun blazed upon it for three hours every bright morning without once moving."
Records show that after this volume nothing else was published by the Club. As we study the history of scientific literature, we might remark that the above observational description would today sit very comfortably as a blog post, yet early scientific literature is often defined by simple, careful, and studious observations of organisms.
-Matt Person, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
This Week's Book of the Week, Bulletin of the Brooklyn Conchological Club, Volume 1, Number 1 (1907), was contributed by the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Owen is credited with coining the phrase 'Dinosauria,' meaning 'Terrible Reptile' or 'Fearfully Great Reptile.' Furthermore, he is well remembered for his opposition to Charles Darwin's evolution by natural selection. While agreeing that evolution did, in fact, occur, Owen purported that it was much more complex than the discussion of natural selection presented by Darwin in Origin of Species. Furthermore, he is well remembered for his distinctive contribution to the establishment of the British Museum of Natural History in London in 1881.
Among the thorough discussion of extinct animals from various kingdoms, Owen's Palaeontology, or, A systematic summary of extinct animals and their geological relations contains geological studies of these various extinct animals, with an estimation of their appearance on earth based on their fossil occurrences in the strata of the earth. Drawing on his work in comparative anatomy, Owen explains that it is by comparing the forms and structures of existing plants and animals, and how these relate to function, to those discovered in fossil remains that an "idea of the food and habits of such species" can be obtained.
Take a look at this fascinating work on extinct creatures, ranging from Protozoa to Animalia and everything in between! The text is rich with highly detailed illustrations complementing the research presented by the author. Through detailed descriptions of the forms, structure, and proposed habits of such creatures, this work transports the reader back to a time when the Terrestrial Sloth, Mastodon, or even the famous Ichthyosaurus, among others, might well have walked (or swam, as the case may be) the earth.
Palaeontology, or, A Systematic Summary of Extinct Animals and their Geological Relations (1860), by Sir Richard Owen, was contributed by the Ernst Mayr Library at Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Monday, October 26, 2009
While serving as Curator of the Collections for the Entomological Society of London, Janson published British Beetles (not to be confused with these guys!) with the help of his elder colleague's intriguing illustrations. John Curtis was an English entomologist and illustrator who grew up drawing insects and pursuing entomological craft while apprenticing at a law office. His A guide to the arrangement of British insects, was an influential work with over 10,000 insect names. Click the image or the link below to view more about the book. Enjoy!
British beetles. Transferred from Curtis's British entomology. With descriptions by E.W. Janson. (1863) Contributed by the Smithsonian Institution.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Question: What's the oldest book in BHL?
Answer: [R]ogatu plurimo[rum] inopu[m] num[m]o[rum] egentiu[m] appotecas refuta[n]tiu[m] occasione illa, q[uia] necessaria ibide[m] ad corp[us] egru[m] specta[n]tia su[n]t cara simplicia et composita... also known as "Herbarius latinus"
Published in 1484, this Pre-Linnean text describes 150 plants and 96 medicines commonly found in apothecaries, and each plant description is accompanied by a detailed woodcut. The work is compiled from older sources, including classical, Arabic, and Medieval works, and contains Latin text, with the names of the herbs in both Latin and German. The popularity of the text resulted in the publication of ten reprints before 1499.
This important work was compiled by Peter Schöffer, an early German printer born in 1425 in Gernsheim, Germany. Studying in Paris, Schöffer spent his early career as a manuscript copyist, but he eventually became an apprentice to Johannes Gutenberg. In 1457, Schöffer went into business with Guternberg's moneylender, Johann Furst, establishing the printing firm Furst and Schöffer, after the foreclosure of the mortgage on Gutenberg's printing shop.
Peter Schöffer's famous works include the Latin Psalter (1457), Cicero's De officiis (1465), and our very own book of the week, "Herbarius latinus". Schöffer is attributed with such innovations as dating books, introducing the printer's device and Greek characters in print, and using colored inks in print. Eventually, after going in to business on his own, Schöffer restricted his publications to works involving theology, and civil and ecclesiastic law.
Schöffer's legacy still lives on today, beyond the bounds of the published arena. Schöffer's house was eventually turned into a brewery, from which the Schöfferhofer brand of German wheat beer originated. (Schöffer's portrait is used as a trademark for this beer). With such accomplishments as "Herbarius latinus" and his own German beer, what more could Schöffer have hoped to leave behind him for remembrance in the new millenium?
To view this week's book of the week, [R]ogatu plurimo[rum] inopu[m] num[m]o[rum] egentiu[m] appotecas refuta[n]tiu[m] occasione illa, q[uia] necessaria ibide[m] ad corp[us] egru[m] specta[n]tia su[n]t cara simplicia et composita (1484), contributed by the Missouri Botanical Garden, click here.
Monday, October 5, 2009
With the month of September having drawn to a close, and the cooler weather descending upon us (yes, even here in San Francisco), it seems a fitting time to draw attention to the contributions of Jean-François Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse and his remarkable (and ill-fated) Pacific voyage. Because it was 223 years ago last month that La Pérouse landed his first French expedition to California, a trip that led to the first published account and image of the California Quail, our state bird since 1931.
Although the report of La Pérouse's voyage is title Voyage de La Pérouse autour du Monde, he did not circumvent the globe, but rather thoroughly explored the Pacific Ocean, landing in such places as Chile, Alaska, California, Macao, the Philippines, Siberia, the Russian possessions of Sakhalin and Kamchatka, Hawaii, Easter Island, and Australia. His expedition was sponsored by Louis XVI; the French were late to the game of Pacific exploration, following in the wake of voyages launched by Great Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, and the Portuguese.
La Pérouse commanded two frigates, L'Astrolabe and La Boussole, and travelled with a group of seventeen respected scientists, engineers, and naturalists, as well as top-of-the-line scientific instruments, and an impressive natural history library. He had an incredible amount of resources and support, yet he launched from Brest in northwestern France on August 1, 1785 and never saw France again.
In California, La Pérouse said of our little birds that he saw them in coveys of 300-400, and that they were fat and delicious. Here in San Francisco, many of us have grown quite protective of Callipepla californica. A bird once seen in great numbers in Golden Gate Park, it is estimated that the California Quail population in the Park had plummeted from over 1,200 birds at the turn of the century to fewer than 15 individuals in 1999. For most of the last decade, there have been focused efforts to bring the quail back to Golden Gate Park, by restoring habitat and building an understanding of the plight of our little bird. If you're lucky, you might see or hear California Quail here in the Park again; they are definitely making a comeback.
La Pérouse was not so fortunate, as he, his ships, and his crew were lost after leaving Botany Bay in Australia in March 1788. Miraculously, La Pérouse gave his journal of the voyage to date, as well as some scientific research to the crew member who had served as a Russian translator, Baron Jean Baptiste Barthelmy de Lesseps, who disembarked in Kamchatka. He travelled over land back to Paris, and the material be brought back was published at the expense of the French Republic, with the first volume appearing in 1797.
-Rebecca Morin, California Academy of Sciences
To view this week's Book of the Week, Voyage de La Pérouse autour du Monde (1797), contributed by the Missouri Botanical Garden, click here.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Timothy Abbott Conrad (1803-1877) enjoyed a remarkable career, and, although he is best known as an American geologist, malacologist, and carcinologist, he began his professional career as a clerk in his father's printing and publishing house. It was not until 1831, also the year in which Conrad was elected a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, that he published his first volume, American Marine Conchology, or Descriptions and Colored Figures of the Shells of the Atlantic Coast (several plates from which are pictured here). Intending with this volume to "supply a deficiency which [had] long been felt by the cultivators of American natural history," this volume contains seventeen plates, all illustrated by Conrad and hand colored by his sister, that depict the abundance and variation of the shells found along America's coastline.
Conrad died on August 9, 1877, in Trenton, New Jersey. His death, according to Popular Science Monthly (volume 47, 1895), marked the passing of "the last of the prominent group of early Philadelphia naturalists, who paved the way for the more philosophical biologists of the present day."
To view this week's book of the week, American Marine Conchology, or Descriptions and Colored Figures of the Shells of the Atlantic Coast (1831), by Thomas Abbott Conrad, contributed by the Smithsonian Institution, click here.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Much of Dr. de Queiroz’ research requires access to the historical use of names. BHL provides that access which would have taken countless trips to research centers in multiple locations around the globe. As Dr. de Queiroz demonstrates, universal access to the wealth of knowledge housed in BHL has greatly enhanced scientists' and researchers' abilities to conduct their work from anywhere on the planet (on this side of the digital divide, anyway).
Kevin de Queiroz: Publications
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Can you return from a trip to the beach without something in your pocket? Whether gathering food, collecting shells, or simply plucking a pretty rock from the surf while strolling on the sand, beachcombing seems like a universal practice, and one at least as old as bipedalism (and pockets).
As it turns out, ambling along the beach, collecting shells, and observing tidepool life are not the ageless pastimes one might assume. It was not until the mid-19th century that these practices became widespread (at least in England and the United States). This surge in popularity was largely the result of the works of Philip Henry Gosse, particularly in his 1853 work, A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast.
Philip Henry Gosse was a talented naturalist and gifted illustrator. He corresponded with Charles Darwin, and was a best-selling author. As a young man, he travelled in Canada, the United States, and Jamaica, where he collected, drew, and wrote about many of the organisms he encountered, including insects, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. When he returned to his native England, he devoted himself to studying, sketching, and describing the shore-dwelling creatures he observed hear his home in South Devon. His books about the local sea stars, anemones, crustaceans, and their ilk made Gosse famous, and they made England sit up and notice the vast array of sea life crawling on her shores.
Gosse was disappointed with the quality of the lithographs in A Naturalist's Rambles, but even so, their level of detail and realism is astounding. In the introduction, Gosse implores his readers to be more than "idle pleasure-seekers" at the beach, and to observe that "[m]ost curious and interesting animals are dwelling within a few yards of your feet." In fact, these seashore creatures were so unknown to most people at the time that Gosse's critics accused him of inventing them to sell more books.
A Naturalist's Rambles is a fascinating work in that Gosse managed to skillfully combine his precise, scientific observations with engaging narratives about animals in the wild, their habits, and his practice of collecting subjects for further study in his home aquarium. He also includes prayers, poetry, and an interesting epitaph he found during his rambles. Gosse's book was so inspiring that it prompted crazes for seashore collecting and home aquarium-keeping, which he further discussed in his book The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea.
Later in life, Gosse felt personally responsible for the destruction visited upon his nation's beaches by unscrupulous home aquarists and shell-hunters. One need only read his books to experience the wonder and reverence he felt for his native shores and the diversity of the creatures he found there.
-Rebecca Morin, California Academy of Sciences
This week's book of the week, A Naturalist's Rambles on the Devonshire Coast by Philip Henry Gosse (1853), was contributed by the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The dream of making biodiversity information freely available to people around the world is an ambitious goal embraced by many in the scientific community, and it represents the mission behind both the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.com), of which BHL is a cornerstone institution. While the Biodiversity Heritage Library strives to digitize the published literature of biodiversity held in the collections of the participating and contributing institutions, the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) was established "to make comprehensive, authenticated information about the world's biodiversity freely available over the Internet," and comprises a website hosting more than 160,000 authenticated species pages and 1.4 million base pages.
Recently, EOL announced their intention to employ a thematic approach to the aggregation of content for species pages, with a current focus on marine biodiversity. By 2013, EOL hopes to have comprehensive species pages on at least 90% of named marine species.
The wealth of marine biodiversity information can also be seen in the collection of BHL, with the subject headings of marine animals, fishes, Crustacea, and Mollusks comprising over 1300 titles in BHL. This week's book of the week, Bulletin of the United States National Museum, no. 246 (1966), highlights the diversity of living whales throughout the world's oceans, ranging from the charismatic Bottlenose Dolphin to such well-known icons as Orca whales. With the wealth of marine information available on EOL species pages, it would be a shame not to relate a few of the whale species covered in this volume to their corresponding species pages in EOL, and thus below are a few select species listed with links to their EOL pages and species page within this week's book of the week. And, while it is impossible to highlight all of the whale species covered in this volume in a short blog post with references to EOL and its plethora of further information and images related to these species, we hope you will take the time to explore these creatures both within this text and on EOL. Enjoy!
Orcinus orca (Orca): view in EOL and this week's Book of the Week
Stenella clymene (Clymene Dolphin): view in EOL and this week's Book of the Week
Eubalaena australis (Southern Right Whale): view in EOL and this week's Book of the Week
Lagenodelphis hosei (Fraser's Dolphin): view in EOL and this week's Book of the Week
This week's Book of the Week, Bulletin of the United States National Museum, no. 246 (1966), was contributed by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
(Please keep in mind that the EOL pages have not yet harvested all of the available BHL bibliographic references, and thus the BHL Summary found on the EOL species pages may not fully encompass all BHL titles that mention these species.)
Monday, August 17, 2009
Pierre Belon was one of the first great explorer-naturalists, blazing a trail that would be followed by such luminaries as Damphier, Catesby, Humbolt, and Darwin. He is one of the foremost figures in the world of comparative anatomy, issuing some of the earliest works on homology. His Histoire Naturelle des Estranges Poissons Marins, published in 1551, is the first printed work devoted to fish (although it must be noted that Belon included such aquatic non-fish as the dolphin and hippopotamus). The work is notable for its beautiful woodcut illustrations and Belon's accurate anatomical descriptions, many of which were based on his own dissections. His description and image of a cetacean fetus in utero is considered the first example of the science of embryology.
-Rebecca Morin, California Academy of Sciences
This week's book of the week, L'Histoire Naturelle des Estranges Poissons Marins, avec la Vraie Peincture & Description du Daulphin, & de Plusieurs Autres de Son Espece, by Pierre Belon (1551), was contributed by the Ernst Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.
Monday, August 3, 2009
While selecting books for scanning, The New York Botanical Garden's LuEsther T. Mertz Library will often find treasure in between the pages of centuries-old tomes: pressed leaves and flowers, interesting or revealing marginalia, bookmarks, personal notes, and, yes, even cash.
Its collection overlaps with other BHL members, and contributing institutions often hold runs of the same journal, though not every copy is the same. An interesting example of this is the Mertz Library's copy of Journal de botanique appliquée à l'agriculture à la pharmacie, à la médecine et aux arts(t.3, no. 3-5, - t.4, no.1-2 1814).
This issue contains an important bibliographic anomaly discovered by J.H. Barnhart, which can be found on pages 193-240. The section did not appear in copies available, for example, at the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University, until the early 1930s - an omission noted in a 1934 letter from B.L. Robinson, Harvard, to E.D. Merrill, who served as director of NYBG from 1929 to 1935.
The letter itself was tipped in to the volume by the Garden's Library staff and was scanned intact for BHL (see the "third" text page).
B.L. Robinson wrote, in part:
"It is clear that this hitherto unknown part of the Journal is likely to have nomenclatorial significance in connection with several genera, and I am truly delighted to have a copy of it in our library. In our set, curiously enough, the pages in question had been replaced by pages of the same numbering taken for another volume of the Journal, so that these pages occurred in our set in duplicate, an error in binding already detected, though we had never known about these later published pages of which you send us a copy."
The letter also offers a glimpse into scholarly cooperation and collaboration from that period. Today B.L. Robinson would have been able to look online for the missing pages, as this journal issue - and his letter - are now available in BHL.
It's not a five-dollar bill, but, alas, an interesting discovery.
-Kevin Nolan, New York Botanical Garden
This week's book of the week, Journal de botanique appliquée à l'agriculture, à la pharmacie, à la médecine et aux art, t.3 no. 3-5 - t.4 no. 1-2 (1814), was contributed by The New York Botanical Garden's LuEsther T. Mertz Library.
Monday, July 27, 2009
This week's book of the week relates yet another milestone in the development of a classification system for life on earth. Cuvier's The Animal Kingdom, Arranged According to its Organization, Serving as a Foundation for the Natural History of Animals, was an attempt to classify the animal kingdom on the basis of comparative anatomy, of which Cuvier's entire classification schema was centered.
Cuvier was heavily influenced by Xavier Bichat, the "father of modern histology and pathology," and adapted the principle expounded by this naturalist that articulated two levels of natural existence: vie animale and vie organique. The first referred to an organism's relationship with the environment, including perception, voluntary movement, and sensibility. The second dealt with the faculties that upheld the "inner existence" of the organism, such as the respiratory system.
This distinction differed from that purported by Linnaeus, which divided life into animal, vegetable, and mineral. Instead, Cuvier followed a conviction that divided natural objects into living (plant and animal) and non-living (mineral) existences. Cuvier's definition of life, influenced by the above mentioned distinction, was thus the ability to "resist for a certain time, the laws which govern inorganic bodies, and even to act on the environment in a way which is entirely contrary to those laws; we use the terms 'life' and 'vital force' to designate these apparent exceptions to the general laws of nature" ( Lecons d'Anatomie Comparée).
Thus, Cuvier's classification of life hinged on an understanding of the internal relationships among constituent parts of an organism that produced life, which in turn was involved in constant conflict with the laws of chemistry and physics that attempted to break it apart. Using these principles, Cuvier established a taxonomic approach based on comparative anatomy that established correlations between the inner systems that maintained life within an organism. While this approach worked well for the formation of higher-level classification schemes, such as at the order level, it did not translate as well to lower groups where the internal system functions did not differ much from organism to organism. Nevertheless, Cuvier is remembered as an important naturalist who attempted to understand and establish a system on which to build the study of nature and life.
This week's book of the week, The Animal Kingdom, Arranged According to its Organization, Serving as a Foundation for the Natural History of Animals : And an Introduction to Comparative Anatomy, by Georges Cuvier (1834), volume 3 (plates), was contributed by the Natural History Museum, London.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Jung is significant when exploring the development of the Linnaean taxonomic system because, first in his botany works and later in additional works, such as Historia Vermium, he introduced a classification system that was based upon a genera and species naming schema. In fact, Jung created a naming terminology that was later perfected by Linnaeus in his binomial nomenclature. To classify and group species, Jung attempted to understand the analogies between the organs and anatomical features of the species he studied, rather than focusing on some of the more surface-related features that other scientists of his time were focused on (To learn more about Joachim Jung, click here).
Building on the important studies done by Jung and other scientists, Linnaeus would later introduce one of the most significant contributions to the study of like on earth at that time: binomial nomenclature. Although the Linnaeus system has been modified over time to reflect the theory of evolution, it is still remembered as the building block upon which taxonomy was founded.
To view this week's book of the week, Historia Vermium, (1691) by Joachim Jung, contributed by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, click here.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Carl Linneaus was one of his first collaborative partners, who almost certainly helped shape Ehret's attention to botanical detail. "For instance, the botanist criticized the artist for failing to include items like the stamen, pistil and other small details, which Ehret argued, would spoil the illustration. In the end Ehret gave in. In fact he became so fond of detailing that this viewpoint became a trademark of his illustrations from then on."
Plate from Missouri Botanical Garden's Plantae selectae quarum imagines ad exemplaria naturalia Londini 1750.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Now try out the new book viewer:
*This is also available underneath the "Download/About this book" link on each book. Click "Alternate Page Viewer (beta)".
There are some key pieces of information missing from the book viewer display that are important for BHL users, like the corresponding volumes if the book is a journal/series, lists of names, view of all page numbers & page descriptions, etc. Those have been documented and discussed at:
Look for these improvements to be incorporated into the viewer in the coming months, as the viewer code is open and available for enhancement. For now, the BHL development team would appreciate your feedback on this new viewing option via comments on this post. Let us know what you like, dislike, want larger/smaller, wish would go away and never return, find confusing, find useful...everything - all feedback is useful for improving the display.
chris (dot) freeland (at) mobot (dot) org
Monday, June 29, 2009
From pg. 35 "Scald, drain, beard, and wash carefully four dozen of cockles, reserving their liquor in a pan, put 4 ounces of butter into a stewpan to barely dissolve over the fire; mix in 4 ounces of flour; moisten with a pint and a half of good white stock or milk; season with nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne, and a teaspoonful of anchovy; add half a pint of cream; stir over the fire for a quarter of an hour's gentle boiling, and then, having cut the cockles in halves, pour the hot soup over them in the tureen."
The Edible Mollusca of Great Britain and Ireland with Recipes for Cooking Them, 1884, M.S. Lovell, Contributed by the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology's Ernst Mayr Library
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
For nearly 200 years, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia has built one of the finest natural history libraries in the world. The Library has grown from five books and two maps in 1812 to its present size of over 68,000 printed titles (numbering over 200,000 volumes) and over 250,000 manuscripts and related pictorial materials. The manuscript collections include the Academy’s archives as well as correspondence, photographs, journals, field notes, and original illustrations by and about American scientists from the first half of the eighteenth century to the present. It is the library of record for early accounts of American scientific expeditions.
The Academy Library, the Ewell Sale Stewart Library, is notable in the Americas for its holdings of historical works in every discipline of the natural sciences; the collection has particular strength in the history of science, evolution, early ecology, systematics, marine and freshwater biology, and geology. It was an early adopter of digitization as a method to make its holdings widely accessible. It began to scan digital images from books and archival materials and publish them on the web in 1999. Two early projects were funded by the IMLS in the form of a Leadership Grant, and one by the Getty Grant Program.
- Danianne Mizzy, Library Director, Ewell Sale Stewart Library, The Academy of Natural Sciences
Established in 1853, the California Academy of Sciences is the third oldest institution of its kind in the U.S. and the only one in the nation with a major research center, aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum under one roof. All programs and exhibits at the Academy embrace its mission to explore, explain, and protect the natural world, focusing on the evolution of life, its diversity, and its sustainability. Scientific research is a key part of the Academy’s mission and this work is supported by a collection of 20 million specimens, 60 research scientists, and a library with more than 230,000 volumes and 1200 current serial titles. Examples of current biodiversity research include the work being done by Brian Fisher on the ants of Madagascar, Jack Dumbacher on the birds of Papua New Guinea, Peter Roopnarine on the evolution of communities through the fossil record, and Healy Hamilton on the effects of climate change on species distributions and conservation planning efforts. Academy Library website.
- Lawrence Currie, Academy Librarian, California Academy of Sciences
Monday, June 15, 2009
For anyone who has seen the new BHL business cards, this week's Book of the Week may look vaguely familiar. Several of the species images used on the cards (and indeed at the top of this webpage) were taken from plates found in the Report on the Zoological Collections Made During the Voyage of the H.M.S. 'Alert.'
The H.M.S. Alert had a long history of expeditions, from arctic exploration (1874-1876) to surveys of the Pacific Ocean (1857-1868 and 1876-1884). It is perhaps best known for its Arctic expedition, although the contributions made during the Pacific explorations are also extremely noteworthy. For instance, during the Alert's Pacific Expedition from 1876-1884, Dr. Richard Coppinger, an accomplished naturalist that also served during the ship's Arctic expedition, collected 3,700 specimens, representing 1,300 species, that were later added to the National Collection. Coppinger made careful studies of these specimens, which were ultimately related in this week's Book of the Week, along with exacting and beautifully detailed plates. At the time of publication, the records contributed during this expedition were unparalleled, with the exception of the Challenger Expedition, in the contribution made to the scientific knowledge of the biodiversity of the Littoral Invertebrate Fauna of the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
To view this week's Book of the Week, Report on the Zoological Collections Made in the Indo-Pacific Ocean During the Voyage of H.M.S. 'Alert' (1884), contributed by Smithsonian Institution Libraries, click here.
Click on the following links to view information related to the species featured from this book on the Encyclopedia of Life website:
Monday, June 8, 2009
One such expedition, the Challenger Expedition of 1872-1876, served to help “lay the foundation for oceanography.” The expedition, leaving from Portsmouth, England, on the 21st of December, 1872, traversed over 68,000 nautical miles during its exploration. The findings were documented in the publication Report of the Exploring Voyage of the H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-1876. This publication, which cataloged over 4,000 new species, provided readers not only with in-depth text describing the findings from the voyage, but also a myriad of beautifully illustrated plates to correspond with these findings.
A portion of this publication, Report on the Reef-Corals collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76, served as a report detailing the reef corals collected during the Challenger Expedition (Plate II from this book is pictured here). In recent news, on April 4, 2009, the Manchester Museum unveiled the Manchester Gallery, which includes an exhibit showcasing a collection of specimens gathered during the Challenger Expedition.
To see more books from the Challenger Expedition, click here.
To view this week's book of the week, Report on the Reef-Corals collected by H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76 (1886) by John J. Quelch, contributed by the Smithsonian, click here.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
There are currently two videos available:
- BHL Portal PDF Creation. A step by step guide to creating PDFs (see below)
- BHL Name Finding. Using the URL method
- BHL Name Finding via the Search Box. This method involves using the Search box
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Though the member libraries of the BHL had been working together in various ways since 2005, the official launch at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. can be marked as the jump start to the project.
At the time of the launch, there were just over a million pages available online. Though the BHL portal soon hit 2 million pages by September 2007, the ensuing months, through today, saw an amazing explosion of scanning that result in today's (actually May 8, 2009) numbers:
- 12,162 titles
- 32,780 volumes
- 13,158,954 pages
Scanning centers operated by the Internet Archive in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Boston, London, and at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have proven that affordable, open access mass scanning is a reality.
The BHL portal development team, based at the Missouri Botanical Garden has done amazing work along with our partners in the taxonomic community to create a cutting edge 21st century tool that will help people around the world better understand our planet.
And speaking of our users, in the past two years, we've seen nearly 400,000 visitors to our portal, from 224 countries and territories (see the map above).
In the coming years, we look forward to the expansion of BHL into Europe - with the kickoff of BHL-Europe just days away - and further partnerships around the world.
And because BHL is about life, I can't end without a link to some of the interesting things you can find in BHL. In the 13 million pages of BHL, there are 12,95,651 unique species names! I picked a random genus, Chrismania, a genus of moths of the Crambidae family. Take a look at what you kind of things you'll find in BHL!
The BHL development team will shortly launch even better tools to mine the historic taxonomic literature. I think we can safely say that, well, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
We’ve been investigating options for storage and distribution of citation data in the Biodiversity Heritage Library. In particular, we are searching for an appropriate "core" format. The thought is that with an appropriately verbose, open, standard core format for our citations, we can transform that format into whatever other format we might want to support. By “verbose”, we mean a format that can support all of the information that we need to preserve. By “open”, we’re looking for a format that’s not tied exclusively to one system or vendor. And by “standard”, we’re hoping to identify a format that is widely recognized by the library community.
Some of the information found in this Wikipedia article has guided the research: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software. Specifically, the information found there about which formats are supported in each of the various applications is useful.
Following is a brief description of the format candidates we’ve investigated, as well as our preliminary conclusions.
- The following formats appear (at the first look) to be the most open, verbose, and recognized formats.
METS/MODS - Library of Congress standards
http://www.loc.gov/standards/mods/ - examples can be found under the "Guidance" section
NLM – National Library of Medicine format
http://dtd.nlm.nih.gov/ - DTDs
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/staff/beck/citations/citationtags.html - examples
EndNote (RIS/XML) – this seems to be the most widely adopted format
http://www.endnote.com/support/ensupport.asp - XML DTD is here
http://refdb.sourceforge.net/manual-0.9.4/c2166.html - RIS format description
- The following format is also a possibility, but it may be overly complex for our needs.
- Here are other formats that have been looked at, but appear to be deficient in one way or another.
UniXRef – this is the XML format CrossRef returns from their OpenURL resolver.
The verbosity of this format is good; it appears that a document using this format it could contain all of the information that we require. However, it is unclear how much this format has been adopted outside of specialized custom applications.
http://www.crossref.org/help/Content/04_Queries_and_retrieving/Bulk%20metadata%20distribution.htm – schema found by clicking on “Unified XML Schema – Overview”
CoiNS - not widely adopted
MARC - doesn't support article-level metadata (pages, etc)
Dublin Core - Not detailed enough
BibTeX - Not detailed enough
OAI outputs – only a few defined outputs, which happen to be formats that are defined elsewhere (Dublin Core, RFC1807, MARC)
RefWorks - too proprietary
If you have experience with one or more of these formats and would like to help us make our decision, please post your comments below.
Missouri Botanical Garden
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
As this was our first attempt at crowdsourcing, we didn't know what kind of data quality to expect. We have been monitoring the data submitted since releasing the functionality in January, and formed the criteria for a more formal analysis. After reviewing the metadata for a sample of 50 PDFs out of a total of 802 generated between January 15, 2009 and the end of March the following trends were revealed:
- 88% of articles were assigned article-level titles by users, indicating that they are comfortable entering metadata without a great deal of prompting. So far, the only guidance in the interface is "Are you generating a PDF containing the text of a single journal article or book chapter? If so, please help us out by providing the following information!"
- 22% of the PDFs generated could not be considered true articles. They were determined to be arbitrary selections of pages.
- 24% of the PDFs generated were not articles in the bibliographic sense but were species descriptive/relevant excerpts from larger works.
- 50% of the PDFs generated could be considered true articles in the bibliographic sense, complete with identifiable titles, authors, and subjects.
Accuracy was measured on a scale of low to high for title, author, and subject
- 55% of article title metadata was found to be highly accurate
- 14% was considered medium = interpreted or modified
- 27% was considered low = extrapolated from a non-obvious source OR the article title was available but a poorly descriptive article title was attributed or no article-level title was provided at all
- 67% high accuracy, however formatting issues will need to be addressed to streamline differences in Firstname Lastname entries. Anything from Bianca Lipscomb to Lipscomb, B. to B. Lipscomb was found; users did not necessarily follow the formatting presented in the original text
- 29% at medium accuracy, meaning that author names were either significantly abbreviated or interpreted from the source text
- only 2% at low accuracy, meaning that no author was attributed to the article even though it should have been
Subjects were more difficult to analyze as compared with titles and authors above. For the most part, I was satisfied with only 6 instances of subject attribution, i.e. appropriate subject and geographic keywords. Many users simply neglected subjects or used the original title for the subject. Either way, I think it important that subjects are required metadata in order to trace associations between articles in the repository. This is, of course, coming from a librarian's perspective.
Please use the comment form below for questions.
Collections Manager, Biodiversity Heritage Library
lipscombb (at) si (dot) edu
Friday, April 10, 2009
Until now, letters that include diacritics (for example, ó, ö, è, é, û) were treated differently than letters without diacritics.
What this meant is that in order to find titles, authors, or subjects that included diacritics, you had to search for an exact match on the diacritic... for example, to find all titles about "invertebrate zoology", you had to search twice: once for "invertebrate zoology" and once for "invertebrate zoölogy". (Or you had to search for something like "invertebrate zo" and hope you didn't get too much extra stuff in the search results.) Obviously, there are all sorts of problems with this limitation.
Starting immediately, searches in the BHL portal are accent-insensitive, so no distinction is made between letters with and without diacritics. This means that a search for "invertebrate zoology" will now find all nine titles that contain either "invertebrate zoology" or "invertebrate zoölogy". See the search results here: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/Search.aspx?searchTerm=invertebrate%20zoology&searchCat=. Another good example is searches for "Linne", which now return instances of both "Linne" and "Linné". http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/Search.aspx?searchTerm=linne&searchCat=T
While there is still more work to do to improve the search features, this is a good first step to improving the quality of our search results.
Missouri Botanical Garden
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
What appears to be a male Dodo bird (Raphus cucullatus) approximately 2 and a half feet tall has been discovered today, April 1, nesting among the bushes in the butterfly garden of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. How the creature, that hasn’t been seen since the 17th century, has come to reside Washington, DC remains a mystery. Smithsonian Security was alerted to the presence of the bird by an alert tourist who heard the loud syncopated calls of the once thought extinct bird. Nicknamed “Lazarus,” the Dodo exhibits a friendly curiosity about humans, clearly enjoying the excitement and attention its presence is generating.
Orthinologists and evolutionary biologists from around the world are currently pouring into Washington to investigate.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library contains a number of references to the Dodo's current taxonomic name (Raphus cucullatus), as well as over two hundred references to the earlier scientific synonym (Didus ineptus). You can also find references to the taxonomic family (Raphidae) and 400 plus references to Didus, the synonym for the genus.
The description, by Linnaeus, can be found in the 1766 edition of Systeme naturae.
A few of illustrations of the Dodo from the BHL can be found here:
- 1829. Illustration from John V. Thompson's article (above)
- 1889. Facsimile of Piso's figure of the Dodo
- 1900. Fig. 66.— Dodo, Didus ineptus. (After Savery's Vienna picture.)
Learn more about life at the Biodiversity Heritage Library!
Reported by Erin Thomas, Smithsonian Institution Libraries
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
BHL-Europe will review and test different approaches for such libraries based on the experiences of the partners involved in the project. The consortium will establish a best practice approach and promote the adoption of standards and specifications for the large-scale implementation in a real-life context. BHL-Europe will provide a multilingual access point for search and retrieval of digital content through EUROPEANA. In addition, it will provide a robust multilingual portal with sophisticated search tools to facilitate the search for taxon-specific biodiversity information. The project will also develop operational strategies and processes for long-term preservation and sustainability of the data produced by national biodiversity digitisation programmes. BHL-Europe will generate activities to raise awareness and to ensure that the project outputs are known and used by the target users and that the proposed approach directly addresses user needs. BHL-Europe experience and best practice will be shared with the wider digital library community.
The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is leading this three year project carried out within the eContentplus programme of the European Commission and is looking for a
Team Leader and ICT specialist
code number 05/09
- Salary group BAT-O IIA / Ib
- From 1st of May 2009
- Subject to the final approval of project funding
- Position limited for 3 years
- Full-time position
Tasks: Lead the work package "Analysis of domain content and management of the content acquisition process" of BHL-Europe; Develop, enhance and maintain bibliographic informatics and metadata exposure tools; Support and coordinate the development and implementation of integrative work-flows, tools and interfaces for the ingestion and presentation of digitised content; Coordinate with the other work packages, related networks, and scanning centres; Fundraising activities to set up scanning projects.
Qualifications: Completed Diploma/Master in informatics or qualifications in related subjects; Experience with open source programming languages (e.g. PHP, Perl), database programming (e.g. MySQL), markup languages (e.g. HTML, XML), Web site development, OAI interface development, and development of tools based on Web 2.0 technologies; Experience with library specific skills (e.g. management of metadata, work with OPAC); Project management skills (incl. MS Project); Background in life sciences desired; Fluent in English and German; Excellent inter-personal and communication skills; Experience with fundraising.
Museum für Naturkunde is an equal opportunity employer, committed to the advancement of individuals without regard to ethnicity, religion, sex, age, disability or any other protected Status.
For further information please contact Dr. Henning Scholz, email@example.com ++49-30-2093-8864
Further information of the Leibniz-Gemeinschaft: www.leibniz-gemeinschaft.de
Applications are accepted in English and German and should be sent under code number 05/09 within 2 weeks (April 2, 2009) to:
Museum für Naturkunde
Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Invalidenstraße 43
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The Associated Press ran a story on March 20 with the headline, "Rare reptile found first time in 200 years" (see the MSNBC version).
The tuatara is a member of the order Sphenodontia and important to the study of the evolution of lizards and snakes. Thought to be extinct on the main islands of New Zealand, the discovery of this hatchling is great news.
You can find out more about the tuatara and the genus Sphenodon in over 2,000 pages of the Biodiversity Heritage Library. An illustration (above) of Sphenedon punctatus can be found in Reptiles and batrachians, by E. G. Boulenger (1914) contributed by Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Ernst Mayr Library.
Friday, March 13, 2009
The updated documentation, including URLs to files and database schema, is available at:
For a more lengthy description of motivation for these exports and plans for future services, please read Export of titles & scientific names in BHL now available for download.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
This development was greeted with cheers by the BHL Technical Development Team, as it solves problems we’ve previously reported with the non-scalable, proprietary solutions used to serve JPEG 2000 images. Following a functional evaluation in December 2008, djatoka was integrated into the BHL staging site for performance testing and was promoted to production on Thursday, January 22, 2009.
To view djatoka in use on BHL materials, check out the following page from “Wild oxen, sheep & goats of all lands, living and extinct” by R. Lydekker published in 1898, selected in honor of the Chinese New Year, in this, the Year of the Ox:
JPEG 2000: An excellent format with poor support
Displaying JPEG 2000 images on the web can be a challenge because 1) the images are often too large to be downloaded quickly, 2) most web browsers don’t understand JPEG 2000 images without appropriate plug-ins, and 3) until the release of djatoka there were no active open source image servers; costly commercial solutions were the only option, aside from complete custom development.
JPEG 2000 images are different from traditional image formats like GIF, JPEG, and PNG in that they consist of several “layers”, one for each available resolution. Think of JPEG 2000 images as a pyramid - each layer of a JPEG 2000 file is a copy of the same image, each at progressively larger size as you step down the pyramid. The top layer may be relatively small but the bottom layer could be quite large. Consider a JPEG 2000 image whose bottom layer is 18,000 pixels square, such as this example. To view this image in its entirety using standard 1024 x 1280 monitors would require an array of 270 monitors stacked 15 high and running 18 wide! Cool, yes, but impractical.
So, to deliver JPEG 2000 images to web users, scalable software is needed to carve up the JPEG 2000 image into smaller chunks at a given resolution in a format natively understood by a users’ browser. And, since we are talking about this occurring during the load time of a web page, all of this has to happen very quickly.
BHL’s first approach to JPEG 2000 delivery
Though functional, the addition of BHL’s 1,500 users per day pushed ExpressServer beyond its available capacity, causing a significant delay in delivering page images. Since it is a commercial solution, and one that is licensed by processor, to increase capacity would require the purchase of an additional ExpressServer license, costing upwards of $15,000USD. An open source option was needed, but none was available until the release of djatoka.
For detailed information about djatoka, including source code for download, visit:
- djatoka info - http://african.lanl.gov/aDORe/projects/djatoka
- djatoka on SourceForge: http://sourceforge.net/projects/djatoka
djatoka in BHL
djatoka brought with it some improvements to our user interface:
- Preview thumbnail. This allows a user to see which portion of the overall image is being viewed. This also lets the user easily view different parts of the image by simply dragging the control to the desired part of the image.
- Simplified zoom controls. With our djatoka implementation we got rid of the radio buttons formerly used to zoom in and out and replaced them with plus and minus buttons.
- We needed to retain the Save and Print image features from the previous image viewer. Therefore, we rolled these into the djatoka viewer.
- BHL defaults to serving a single low resolution JPEG images, when available, and only escalates to more costly JPEG 2000 processing when instructed by the user. We made the djatoka viewer friendlier toward raw JPEGs. djatoka itself handles raw JPEGs with aplomb.
- We removed a text box that provides a way to embed a Region Of Interest (ROI), or "slice," of the image as tiled by djatoka. While this is a very useful feature, we felt the current implementation consumed too much screen space of the visible page image. We plan to reintroduce this in a less obtrusive manner.
Towards a scalable infrastructure
BHL developer Phil Cryer has written an excellent and detailed blog post about the technical infrastructure devised to provide scalability and fault tolerance to our djatoka implementation. It is available at http://www.fak3r.com/2009/01/27/howto-serve-jpeg2000-images-with-a-scalable-infrastructure/.
While we are happy with our initial implementation of djatoka, we have already planned some future enhancements and have begun discussions concerning priorities with the djatoka development community, including lead developers Chute and Van de Sompel. These enhancements are as follows:
- An embed image link. This will directly replace functionality we removed from our implementation of the djatoka viewer. Drawing from similar features elsewhere, we are leaning toward a clickable link icon which pops up a box which contains a URI for the image as the user is currently viewing it.
- The current djatoka viewer is based on an old version of MooTools. Newer versions of MooTools are not compatible with the djatoka viewer. We’d like to fix this so that it’s easier to drop into a website that uses a current or future version of MooTools. This will allow us to use a newer and more flexible version of this useful code library, and will allow others to reuse our work more easily.
As described above, djatoka has easily integrated into the production BHL infrastructure and user interface with minimal effort. It has nullified problems that existed with the previous, proprietary solution used to deliver JPEG 2000 images, and thus far has performed without significant error or delay since being promoted into production at www.biodiversitylibrary.org. Because this is an open source solution, BHL can easily scale up without significant expense should we require additional capacity. Our experience implementing djatoka has been overwhelmingly positive, and we would encourage any project currently serving JPEG 2000 images to evaluate its features and functionality within your infrastructure.
If you'd like to learn more about djatoka visit the main web site or get the code from SourceForge. Join the listservs to become an active member of the djatoka development community, as the lists are the best source of current information and have an active user base. Finally, please leave comments or feedback about our specific implementation of djatoka in BHL using the Comment form below.
Chris Freeland, BHL Technical Director
chris.freeland (at) mobot.org
Chris Moyers, BHL Developer
chris.moyers (at) mobot.org