Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lloyd Library and Museum

"Paraphernalia," photo by Cindi (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Over the course of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature (EABL) project, contributing organizations have shipped material to Internet Archive scanning centers around the country. A few have scanned their own material, and a few more have used third-party commercial services. One EABL contributor did things a little differently.

Betsy Kruthoffer, Librarian and Rare Books Cataloger at the Lloyd Library and Museum, selected a number of important titles from the library's collection that were not in BHL. After weighing various scanning options, she got in touch with the digital lab at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH), which had done good work for a Lloyd patron the previous year (and, conveniently, is located right down the street). PLCH agreed to do the scanning, with the understanding that the digitized books would also be made available in a PLCH online collection.

Once the scanning was complete, Betsy considered loading all of the images onto an external hard drive and mailing it to Mariah Lewis, the EABL Metadata Specialist, in order to contribute the scans to BHL. After learning about Macaw (BHL's metadata and upload software), however, she decided to take a stab at the uploading herself--with great success. BHL's collection is richer thanks to her thorough work.

History of the Lloyd Library and Museum

The Lloyd Library began with three brothers: John Uri, Nelson Ashley, and Curtis Gates Lloyd. According to tradition, the first books in the library were Edward Parrish's A Treatise on Pharmacy (1864 edition) and George Fownes' A Manual of Elementary Chemistry, Theoretical and Practical (1864 edition). These books accompanied John Uri Lloyd, the oldest of the three, when he went to Cincinnati to become a pharmacist in 1864. His brothers soon followed after. 

Eventually, the brothers joined together to form Lloyd Brothers, Pharmacists, Inc. John Uri's small library grew with the company; in 1901, it got its own building (it would move several times in following years), and in 1919, a trust was established to ensure that the library would continue and be open to the public. A new structure was erected in 1970 adjacent to the one that had housed the library for 75 years. This is where the library remains today.

The Lloyd brothers.

The Lloyd Library has one of the preeminent North American collections related to pharmacology and natural products, but it covers many related subjects as well: botany, pharmacognosy, herbal and alternative medicine, horticulture, eclectic medicine (an herbal medicine school), and sectarian medicine (predecessor to homeopathy), among others. 

Curtis Gates Lloyd, an avid mycologist, amassed a considerable herbarium, nicknamed the "mushroom museum." After his death in 1926, the botanical specimens were given to the University of Cincinnati, and the mushrooms went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A small collection of medicine bottles and pharmacy implements remains; these comprise the Lloyd Museum, which features permanent and rotating exhibits

For more detailed accounts of the Lloyd brothers, their company, and the history of the Lloyd Library and Museum, visit the Lloyd's website

Rare Books from the Lloyd Library

Of the titles digitized by PLCH, Betsy Kruthoffer considers one the most important: John Sibthorp's Flora Graeca, published in 10 volumes from 1806 to 1840. This monumental work contains nearly a thousand color plates of the flora of Greece as surveyed in the late 18th century by Sibthorp and Ferdinand Bauer, who illustrated them. Sibthorp himself never lived to see the printed Flora--he died in 1797 of an illness contracted on one of his trips--but he provided for its publication in his will. 

Sibthorp, John. Flora Graeca. v. 1 (1806). Contributed by the
Lloyd Library and Museum.

Betsy has recorded the fascinating story of how the Lloyd Library came to possess a first edition of the Flora Graeca, one of only 25 printed. 

Another important title is Johann Kniphof's Botanica in originali, published in 12 volumes (1758-1764). The work uses a technique called "nature printing," which involves creating plates or engravings from direct impressions of actual plant specimens and using those plates to print images.

Kniphof, Johannes. Botanica in originali. v. 1 (1758). Contributed by the
Lloyd Library and Museum.

Less an academic tome and more a physician's quick-reference herbal, the Botanicum medicinale is organized into single-page summaries of each plant, with engraved text around a colored illustration. 

Sheldrake, Timothy. Botanicum medicinale. c. 1768. Contributed by the
Lloyd Library and Museum.

The complete list of titles submitted by the Lloyd Library to BHL:
Thank you to Betsy Kruthoffer, the Lloyd Library, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County for working with EABL to make these historic works available to everyone. 

By Patrick Randall
Community Manager
Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Re-Examining the Jurassic Mammal Fossils of the UK

Elsa Panciroli, Palaeontology PhD candidate, at work on the Isle of Skye. Photo credit: Elsa Panciroli.

Mesozoic mammal palaeontology is in the middle of a revolution. Since the first mammals and their closest mammal-like relatives were discovered in the early 1800s, most of the fossil record for these earliest ancestors of ours were fragments of jaw and isolated teeth, the size of rice grains. In the last fifteen years however, an increasing number of more complete skeletons have been found in China, radically changing our understanding of the first mammals. It turns out they were more diverse and ecologically specialised than anyone previously suspected.

Now we have new skeletons, it is more important than ever to pull together and sort through the historical fossil finds and descriptions. This means tracking down old and often obscure scientific papers. That’s how I discovered BHL.

My name is Elsa, and I’m in the third year of my PhD on the origin and evolution of mammals, at the University of Edinburgh and National Museums Scotland. My work centres on the spectacular fossils found on the Isle of Skye; a beautiful island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. The Middle Jurassic limestones of Skye are yielding the best Mesozoic aged mammal fossils found in the UK, and arguably among the best in the world.

The mammal fossils of Skye come from similar aged rocks to the very first Mesozoic mammal fossils ever described. In 1824, The Reverend William Buckland not only introduced the Victorian world to the meat-eating dinosaur Megalosaurus, but also a sturdy little mammal jaw, complete with little pointed teeth. This came to be called Phascolotherium. These fossils were recovered from the Stonesfield Slate of Oxfordshire. The rocks are Bathonian in age, a Jurassic time period spanning 168-166 million years ago.

Upper jaw and teeth of Megalosaurus. Buckland, William. Notice on the Megalosaurus or great Fossil Lizard of Stonesfield. Transactions of the Geological Society ser. 2, v. 1: 390-396. Digitized by California Academy of Sciences.

Since Buckland’s initial description, the Bathonian rocks of the UK have been the most productive Mesozoic mammal strata. Many new species and genera have been identified from sites such as Kirtlington in Oxfordshire, and Watton Cliff in Dorset. In order to understand the relationships between the mammals we are now finding on Skye, and previous fossil finds, I’ve had to scour old journal articles and papers.

Thanks to the BHL, I’ve been able to read the original descriptions by William Buckland and Richard Owen, and those by the many great palaeontologists who followed them. To begin with, I had relied on sending hopeful emails to established colleagues to try and beg obscure old scientific papers from them. I came across BHL a few months into the first year of my PhD, via desperate searching for old articles online. To my delight, many of the old journals I needed were on their website. Once I found what I wanted, it was easy to select the relevant pages and generate a PDF, which BHL emailed to me within minutes. This service has to be one of the best things BHL offers.

From Richard Owen’s On the Jaws of Thylacotherium prevostii (Valenciennes) from Stonesfield (1838), to Clemens and Mills Review of Peramus tenuirostrus Owen (Eupantotheria, Mammalia) (1971), I’ve been able to track down papers unavailable elsewhere. These may be old, but without them I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the full scientific history of the specimens we are working on today, nor check on the references of previous authors who cited them.

Panciroli prospecting for Jurassic fossils in Northern Skye. Photo credit: Elsa Panciroli/Davide Foffa.

Some of the papers BHL have been able to provide have had even more direct bearing on my own publications. They’ve also proven a test of BHL’s staff helpfulness – a test they passed with flying colours.

Many of the animals I study were not yet true-mammals; lacking the distinguishing skeletal characteristics that define this group, such as a dentary-squamosal jaw joint. They are instead, the closest relatives, referred to as mammaliaforms and mammaliamorphs. One such group are the Tritylodontidae. These animals would have looked a lot like mammals at first glance, but they are only a close-sister group. They split off from the mammals and charted their own course through evolutionary history, developing grinding teeth for eating vegetation, and growing much larger than their contemporaneous mammal cousins.

The first tritylodontid described was from the Jurassic of England, a creature called Stereognathus ooliticus. In 1857, Sir Richard Owen figured it in one of his papers, from the type specimen which comprises three molar teeth in a piece of upper jaw. My colleagues and I were looking at the related Stereognathus species, S.hebridicus from Skye. Our goal was to determine if the Scottish species was truly different, or whether all of these fossils were actually from the same original English species. To make this comparison we not only had to look at the original fossil, but track down a high quality copy of Richard Owen’s figure from 1857. Online we found plenty of copies of it, but none in the high resolution necessary.

Stereognathus ooliticus. Owen, Richard. 1857. On the affinity of Stereognathus ooliticus (Charlesworth) a mammal from the Oolitic slate of Stonesfield. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 13:1–11. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

I contacted the BHL by email. They had the journal containing Owen’s description. I visited one of their Member libraries at the Natural History Museum in London, where a helpful staff member found the journal and showed me how to use the scanner. When this proved not to yield a high-enough resolution image for my purposes, she took me behind the scenes and we scanned the figures on another, more powerful scanner in the back-office. I was so grateful!

Thanks to the images I got that day, my co-authors and I were able to finish our publication: A reassessment of the postcanine dentition and systematics of the tritylodontid Stereognathus (Cynodontia, Tritylodontidae, Mammaliamorpha), from the Middle Jurassic of the United Kingdom (See Figure 3). We saw how the fossil drawn by Owen had been worn and damaged over the years by comparing this image to the existing specimen. The damage has an impact on how we carry out taxonomic comparisons between new material found, and the old type specimens. This knowledge wouldn’t have been available without BHL’s resources and assistance.

I now use BHL at least every month or two. Instead of a last resort, I consider it one of my first stops in any search for historical publications. In an age when researchers increasingly expect to be able to access resources online, it provides an amazing resource. The fact that this resource is open access is just amazing. It is only right that everyone should be able to appreciate our shared biodiversity heritage: BHL is helping make that a reality.

By Elsa Panciroli (@gsciencelady)
PhD Candidate - Origin and Early Evolution of Mammals 
University of Edinburgh / National Museum of Scotland


This post may contain the personal opinions of BHL users or affiliated staff and does not necessarily represent the official Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) position on these matters.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Charles Schuchert: “[He] mapped the ancient seas and fathomed the geologic past”

The Yale Peabody Museum of History has partnered with the Biodiversity Heritage Library Field Notes Project to digitize a selection of primary natural history field research. Over the last year, the Peabody Museum has made 69 of invertebrate paleontologist Charles Schuchert’s field notebooks available to the public through Internet Archive and BHL.

Schuchert (3 July 1858 – 20 November 1942) was known for his seminal works on brachiopods, his unprecedentedly detailed and accurate paleogeographic maps of North America, devotedly supporting students academically and financially, and an unwavering dedication to his studies that resulted in over 236 published works, 130 paleogeographic maps, and more than 89,000 invertebrate paleontology specimens in the Yale Peabody Museum alone.

Lore has it that his affinity for invertebrate paleontology was cemented when a worker digging a ditch near his home in Cincinnati casually tossed 8 year old Schuchert a fossil [1]. Collecting such fossils from the local hills led to what would eventually evolve into the 2nd largest brachiopod collection in the nation [2]. Even in those early years, Schuchert’s scientific rigor was evident as he carefully labeled each specimen under his care (even if his first specimen determination of “petrifaction of a nanny-goat’s horn” did turn out to be a coral) [3]. At some point (sources variously say he was 11 or 17), he purchased The Paleontology of Ohio from a local drugstore and began his study in earnest.

Despite the auspicious early years of this lifelong love affair, Schuchert’s paleontological career began late, and was not without obstacles. During his childhood, Charles’ mother Agatha worked in a sewing factory, and his father Philip managed to start a modest business making parlor tables. Charles juggled chores and homework with opening their shop at 7am and continuing work there after school. Upon completing the 6th grade, Charles left school and devoted his days to working in the furniture factory’s varnish room.

 In 1877, when Charles was 19, a fire broke out in the furniture factory and burned it to the ground. After emigrating from Germany and struggling to make ends meet for his small family, the devastation wrought by the fire overwhelmed Philip, and he sickened and died. But Charles, in one of the many instances in which he persevered against great odds, scraped together some $900, rebuilt the furniture business, and over the next few years expanded to become successful.
Schuchert, C. Field Notebook: Alabama. (1894).

In the same year as the fire, Charles befriended Edward Oscar Ulrich, another young man with a love of fossils. Ulrich had some university schooling and was appointed to manage the Cincinnati Society of Natural History collections. Shortly thereafter, Charles visited St. Louis to sell furniture and looked up an expert on crinoids, Dr. G. Hambach. From Hambach, Charles learned lithography, a skill which allowed him to assist Ulrich in publishing material on local brachiopods and bryozoans over the next several years.

In 1884, there was another fire and once again the Schuchert furniture factory burned down. For the next 4 years Charles worked as a laborer in other furniture businesses until the renowned state geologist/paleontologist of New York, James Hall, came to visit Cincinnati. On seeing Schuchert’s collection and expertise, he hired Charles as his assistant.

In Albany, Charles made a number of connections that would serve him well, including one with Charles Emerson Beecher, then faculty at Yale and staff at the Yale Peabody Museum. After some time spent studying Minnesotan brachiopods in Minneapolis, Schuchert joined the staff of the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington in 1893. That April he was sent to the Yale Peabody Museum to assist Beecher in preparing early carboniferous crinoids for display at the Chicago Exposition. Shortly after Schuchert’s return to Washington, he became assistant curator of invertebrate paleontology at the U.S. National Museum.

Hand-drawn map to which Schuchert added notes over many years. This map was eventually published in the second edition of Outlines of Historical Geology (plate 28, map 1, page 230).

Upon Beecher’s sudden death in the winter of 1903, Schuchert was hired at Yale as professor of paleontology, curator of collections at Peabody Museum, and a director of the Sheffield Scientific School. At 46 years old with a 6th grade education, he set foot in a college classroom for the first time and taught his first college courses. This unorthodox appointment resulted in uniquely valuable solutions to common problems: when faced with bored students struggling to imagine geographical relationships between places they had never seen, Charles developed extremely detailed paleographic maps.

Although researchers had been drawing paleogeographic maps since James E. Dana popularized them several decades prior [1], Schuchert revolutionized the practice by showing smaller time periods in his maps (on the order of only several million years, as opposed to entire geologic eras, which span several hundred million years). This smaller slice of time allowed Schuchert to represent a geographic area with exponentially greater precision. He argued repeatedly over the course of his career in papers, books, and lectures that mapping too broad a temporal span meant including so many geologic changes that the resulting model did not accurately portray any moment in history at all.

An astute observation about the need for more detailed paleogeographic maps and their utility as stratigraphic teaching tools turned into a lifelong project as Charles undertook trip after trip gathering data, and spent long evenings painstakingly adding details to the array of maps on the custom desk he had built for the task [4].

Schuchert, C. Field Notebook: Michigan, New York, Ohio, Ontario. (1895). 

Schuchert eventually produced maps of North America spanning all of geologic time. In 1910, he published Paleogeography of North America, which would become the standard text on the subject, and is still in use today [5]. The countless carefully recorded observations that made these feats possible are retained in his field notebooks: a historical record of a historical record.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is honored to have the opportunity to share these notebooks with you. We hope that they continue to inspire the dreams of budding researchers, and that through them Charles Schuchert’s unflagging devotion to his passion can continue to support the efforts of the scientists to come after him as he did during his years as teacher, mentor, and first and foremost: paleontologist.

View Charles Schuchert's field notes in BHL here.

Written by: 
Nicole Palffy-Muhoray, Museum Assistant
Yale Peabody Museum of History

[1] Knopf, Adolph. "Biographical memoir of Charles Schuchert, 1858-1942." National Acad. Sei., Biogr. Mem 27 (1952): 363-389. 
[3] Kaesler, Roger L. "Carl O. Dunbar on Charles Schuchert." (1987): 406-410. 
[4] Schuchert, Charles. Atlas of paleogeographic maps of North America. Wiley, 1955. 
[5] Schuchert, Charles. "Paleogeography of North America." Geological Society of America Bulletin 20.1 (1910): 427-606.
Title quote from: Scientific Notes and News. (1935). Science, 81(2113), 633

The BHL Field Notes Project is funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

BHL Moves to HTTPS

HTTPS? What does it mean? HTTP is the language that your browser uses to communicate to BHL and the S stands for Secure, encrypted, unreadable, or at least much, much harder to read.

The web is moving to encrypted connections across the board. In 2014 Google announced that their page rank algorithm that decides the order of your search results will now rank insecure pages slightly lower than secure pages. From security to rankings, encrypted connections are better for everyone.

(Source: Sean MacEntee via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY 2.0))

"What does it mean for how I use BHL?" you ask.

Well, not much. If you go to a link that uses http://, you will invisibly be redirected to https:// almost immediately.

"What does it mean for my bookmarks or catalog?"

Those still work, too. If you wish, you may update your bookmarks to use https:// and if it's simple, your catalog and databases, as well. However, the old http:// will continue to redirect indefinitely and forever.

"Why would I want to encrypt my work on BHL? We're not doing top secret work here."

Encryption of the communication between your computer and BHL prevents malicious activity, such as intercepting the content, inserting some nasty code onto the page, and happily sending it along to your browser to wreak havoc on your day.

"How do I know it's really working?" 

You've seen it already: a green padlock icon, sometimes with the text "Secure" beside it. This indicates that the site and all of its content are fully encrypted and hidden from prying eyes and hackers.

"What if I use the BHL API? Do I need to do anything?"

After a minor hiccup this morning, no, there's nothing you need to do. Going forward, however, the best action to take is to update your code to use https://.

"Psst! This very blog post isn't encrypted. Did you forget it?"

Good eye for detail! We are in the process of updating the blog, and website encryption will be part of the relaunch later in 2017.

"And what about all those wiki pages that still refer to http://?"

We'll be updating those as we can. Thanks for your patience, but the links all still work!

In summary, carry on as you would and continue the great work you do. If you have specific questions, please feel free to send us feedback here.

BHL Welcomes Oak Spring Garden Foundation as a New Affiliate

This quarter, the Biodiversity Heritage Library welcomed the Oak Spring Garden Foundation (OSGF) as a new Affiliate. The BHL consortium now consists of 19 Members and 18 Affiliates.

With a mission to perpetuate and share the gifts of Rachel (“Bunny”) Lambert Mellon, OSGF is dedicated to inspiring and facilitating scholarship and public dialogue on the history and future of plants. The Foundation operates from Bunny Mellon’s 263-acre estate in Upperville, VA, which includes her residence, garden, and Library.

The Oak Spring Garden Library is home to Bunny Mellon’s personal collection of rare books, manuscripts, and artworks, which she acquired to support her research and design work. Consisting of approximately 19,000 objects, the collection’s strengths include garden and garden design, horticulture, botanical studies, natural history, voyages, architecture, and decorative arts.

Duhamel du Monceau, M. Traité des arbres fruitiers. v. 1 (1768). Contributed by the Oak Spring Garden Library.

As an Affiliate, OSGF will enhance BHL’s collection by contributing rare and unique material from the Library. Providing open access to this significant collection will allow the Foundation to share Bunny Mellon’s legacy with a global community and impact research around the world.

Visit BHL to explore Traité des arbres fruitiers, the first title contributed by the Oak Spring Garden Library to BHL. This title was hand-picked by Bunny Mellon for contribution to the Biodiversity Heritage Library. Learn more.