Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book of the Week: BHL, EOL, and Marine Life

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 (, 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. Photo from EOL species page. Photo Credit: © WoRMS Editorial Board. CC-BY-NC-SA.

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

Lagenodelphis hosei. Photo from EOL species page. Photo Credit: © WoRMS Editorial Board. CC-BY-NC-SA.

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

Book of the Week: Poissons, Anatomy, Embryology and Belon

Belon, Pierre. L'histoire naturelle des estranges poissons marins, avec la vraie peincture & description du daulphin, & de plusieurs autres de son espece. 1551. Digitized by Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Ernst Mayr Library.

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

Book of the Week: Lost and Found in the Journal de Botanique

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.

1934 letter from B.L. Robinson. Digitized by The New York Botanical Garden, LuEsther T. Mertz Library.
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.