Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Exporing Finnish biodiversity during GBIF 24

Biodiversity Excursions

BHL Chair Constance Rinaldo and BHL Program Director Martin Kalfatovic each took advantage of the opportunities provided by our Finnish hosts of GBIF 24 for excursions to explore Finnish biodiversity. Rinaldo explored Nuuksio National Park and Kalfatovic, Vallisaari and Suomenlinna.

Nuuksio National Park
FinBio organized a trip to Nuuksio National Park which is located on the border of an oak forest zone and the southern boreal forest zone. Prominent in the landscape are valleys and gorges formed by glaciers and barren rocky hills covered by lichen and sparse pine forest. At some places the hills reach 110 meters above sea level.  This beautiful park is less than an hour’s drive from Helsinki and has wild trails and many lakes.  We wandered the trails with our guide from Green Window and hunted mushrooms under the tutelage of Tea von Bonsdorff from the Finnish Natural History Museum.  

Along the way we foraged on bilberries (probablyVaccinium myrtillus and lingon berries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) while viewing the beautiful landscapes.  In the Helsinki market, bilberries were sold as “sour blueberries” alongside “sweet blueberries”.  While they were slightly more sour than a standard blueberry, they were delicious. The lingon berries were sweeter than the cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) we find in eastern North America but still had a bite.

After about 2 hours of mushroom hunting, we arrived at the Kattila Lappih Hut where we were treated to a lunch of salmon and potatoes cooked over an open fire.  Lunch was served at long wooden tables with candles and we sat on benches covered with reindeer furs.

Following the delicious lunch we set off on our own.  Some of us continued to hunt mushrooms on foot.  Others headed out in canoes to explore the lake near the Green Window conference facility.

Cortinarius rubellus (deadly webcap)
Vallisaari and Suomenlinna
Vallisaari is just 20 minutes by boat from the Market Square in Helsinki. The island was opened for the public last year – before that it was decades abandoned and the nature took its place. Vallisaari is the most diverse nature destination in the metropolitan area. The island’s fortifications, buildings, and a record-breaking range of species tell a tale of coexistence between humans and wild nature. The other attraction, fortress of Suomenlinna, is one of Finland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Suomenlinna was built during the Swedish era as a maritime fortress and a base for the Archipelago Fleet.

Excursion to Vallisaari

Martin Kalfatovic
BHL Program Director
Constance Rinaldo
Chair, BHL Members' Council
Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

24th meeting of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Governing Board

The 24th meeting of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Governing Board and associated events were held in Helsinki, Finland, 24-29 September. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) was represented at both the 14th GBIF Nodes Meeting (24-25 September 2017, by BHL Program Director, Martin R. Kalfatovic) and the Governing Board Meeting (26-27 September 2017, by BHL Chair, Constance Rinaldo).

BHL Head of Delegation, Constance Rinaldo

14th Global Nodes Meeting

At the Nodes meeting, the delegates were welcomed by Finnish GBIF Nodes Manager, Tapani Lahti. Following this, André Heughebaert, Chair, Nodes Committee, provided an introduction to the structure of the meeting and outlined the key goals:

  • Share information on progress in the nodes
  • Establish new collaboration models
  • Set priorities for the next 2 years

Heughebaert also outlined some elements of the GBIF 2018 Work Programme and noted that there are plans to include regional meetings as in the past. The GBIF Secretariat provide an overview of their activities, led by Tim Hirsch (Deputy Director, GBIF Secretariat). Hirsch's talk, "GBIF International landscape & New regions" was an overview of the GBIF international landscape, including participation by area and how different metrics can be used to measure participation and/or coverage of biodiversity data in GBIF. Some key things that GBIF is addressing are:

  • Address major geospacial gaps
  • Mobilize sampling-event data
  • Digitize natural history collections

Areas being focused on include the Caribbean (formation of an Atlas of Living Caribbean) and Pacific Islands (creating new participant options, including a meeting in Samoa).

Hirsch also noted that GBIF is the key reporting structure for Aichi Target 19  of the Convention on Biological Diversity. He also discussed GBIF's relation to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and how GBIF can engage in filling gaps in knowledge through data mobilization priorities.

Other Secretariat updates included:

  • Capacity Enhancement Support Programme (CESP) / Aisha Lolila Jensen (Program Officer for Participation and Engagement, GBIF Secretariat)
  • Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) / Laura Russell (Program Officer for Participation and Engagement, GBIF Secretariat)
  • Biodiversity Fund for Asia (BIFA) / Maofang Luo (Visiting Scientist from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, GBIF Secretariat)
  • IPT GBIF API and other tools / Laura Russell  (Program Officer for Participation and Engagement, GBIF Secretariat)
  • Presentation of the new GBIF Portal / Morten Høfft & Thomas S. Jeppesen (Web Developers, GBIF Secretariat)
The second session included short talks by members of the GBIF node community and included:

  • Description of the Antarctic Thematic GBIF Node, Strength & Weaknesses / Anton Van de Putte, Node manager, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) 
  • SiB Colombia role as a referent in the Latino American initiatives through GBIF (e.g. workshops, projects, mentoring) / Leonardo Buitrago, Node manager, Colombia 
  • Data management: Stable identifiers for collection specimens: What could the Nodes do to spread the use of this practice? / Walter Berendsohn & Anton Güntsch, Node manager, Germany 
  • Olaf Banki on the @catalogueoflife CoL+ which provides extended taxonomic catalogue & other goals with other partners incl @NLBIF @GBIF @Naturalis_Sci Species2000 ITIS 
  • GBIF Norway: Software tools for online citizen science volunteer digitization of museum herbaria collections ( By Christian Svindseth, Node staff, Norway
  • GBIF Norway: Terms selection tool for data publishers ( By Christian Svindseth, Node staff, Norway 

Swan wings

A tour of the Finnish Museum of Natural History's herbarium scanning project was also provided at the lunch break. The day concluded with a reception at the Finnish Museum of Natural History. Delegates were also privileged to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum's collections areas.

Reception with dinosaurs

Global Nodes meeting group photo
(Photo by Anne Mette Nielsen, CC BY-NC 4.0)

* * * * * 

24th GBIF Governing Board Meeting

GBIF Governing Board Chair Peter Schalk (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden) and Donald Hobern (GBIF Executive Secretary) led the meeting and provided an overview of the past year. There was also a discussion of the GBIF Strategic Plan Goals and Work Programme updates. The plan goals were discussed in detail:

  • Strategic Plan Goal 1 – Empower Global Network
    “Ensure that governments, researchers and users are equipped and supported to share, improve and use data through the GBIF network, regardless of geography, language or institutional affiliation.” 
  • Strategic Plan Goal 2 – Enhance Biodiversity Information Infrastructure
    “Provide leadership, expertise and tools to support the integration of all biodiversity information as an interconnected digital knowledgebase.” 
  • Strategic Plan Goal 3 – Fill Data Gaps
    “Prioritize and promote mobilization of new data resources which combine with existing resources to maximize the coverage, completeness and resolution of GBIF data, particularly with respect to taxonomy, geography and time.” 
  • Strategic Plan Goal 4 – Improve Data Quality
    “Ensure that all data within the GBIF network are of the highest-possible quality and associated with clear indicators enabling users to assess their origin, relevance and usefulness for any application.” 
  • Strategic Plan Goal 5 – Deliver Relevant Data
    Ensure that GBIF delivers data in the form and completeness required to meet the highest priority needs of science and, through science, society.” 

The meeting also presented the winners of the 2017 Young Researchers Award:

In official business, the various GBIF Committee chairs (Science, Nodes, Budget) all reported. Hobern also presented the 2018 budget and work programme. Ireland was selected as the host for the 2018 GBIF 25th meeting of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Governing Board, and Governing Board positions were voted on. Results of the elections were:

  • Chair, Governing Board: Tanya Abrahamse, South Africa
  • 2nd Vice Chair, Governing Board: Mark Graham, Canada
  • Chair, Budget Committee: Peter Schalk, Netherlands
  • 1st Vice-Chair, Budget Committee: Liam Lysaght, Ireland
  • 2nd Vice-Chair, Budget Committee: Joanne Daly, Australia
  • Chair, Science Committee: Thomas M. Orrell, United States
  • 2nd Vice-Chair, Science Committee: Anders G. Finstad, Norway
  • 3rd Vice-Chair, Science Committee: Philippe Grandcolas, France

Governing Board meeting group photo
(Photo by Linda Tammisto, CC0 2017)

* * * * * 

Finnish National Seminar

All delegates and other guests were invited to the Finish National Seminar, "Finnish Biodiversity Information for the Benefit of Society".  The national seminar is a full-day event with talks from invited international and Finnish guest speakers including researchers of various fields as well as representatives of the natural resources administration. The programme gives broad insight into the various uses of openly available biodiversity data in research, governance, and teaching, and introduces the newly established Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility (FinBIF).

Professor Leif Schulman

Professor Leif Schulman, Director of the Finnish Museum of Natural History (and GBIF Head of Delegation for Finland) provided a brilliant opening to the Seminar (which was held in the beautiful Great Hall of the University of Helsinki) by pacing four meters across the stage and noting that it was this distance that birds in Finland are moving north due to climate change. Schulman also introduced Finnish Member of Parliment Ville Niinistö (Minister of the Environment in 2011-2014, led to the funding of FinBIF) who provided a governmental perspective on biodiversity.

GBIF Executive Secretary Donald Hobern provided an overview of GBIF's activities and goals and was followed by FinBIF Manager Kari Lahti who contextualized this work within the Finnish context. Dr. Vincent Smith (Head of Diversity & Informatics Division, Natural History Museum, London), provided a keynote talk, "The Digital Transformation of Biodiversity Institutions - a Changing Intellectual Business Model".

Executive Secretary Donald Hobern

Researchers from across Finland then provided a series of talks that delved deeper into programs and investigations that FinBIF, GBIF, and other global biodiversity research organizations are facilitating. The talks included:

  • Research Director Atte Moilanen (University of Helsinki & FinBIF)
  • Associate Professor Tuuli Toivonen (University of Helsinki)
  • University Researcher Sami Aikio (University of Oulu)
  • Post Doc Researcher Andrea Santangeli (Finnish Museum of Natural History)
  • Research Director Ilari Sääksjärvi (University of Turku)
  • Senior Curator Marko Mutanen (University of Oulu Biodiversity Unit)
  • Professor Jouko Rikkinen (Finnish Museum of Natural History & Faculty of Biosciences, University of Helsinki)
  • Ministerial Adviser Johanna Niemivuo-Lahti, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
  • Dr. Aino Juslén, Unit Director at the Finnish Museum of Natural History

* * * * * 

Other Meetings

Xu & Kalfatovic

The meetings also allowed BHL staff to meet with a number of our partners including Dr. Zheping Xu (BHL China) and Patricia Koleff (BHL México). Discussions with Michelle Price (Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève) and Chair of Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF AISBL) provided an opportunity to explore possible collaborations.

Rinaldo, Koleff, Kalfatovic

Rinaldo and Kalfatovic were also able to spend time with outgoing GBIF Science Committee Chair and BHL power user Rod Page to discuss ongoing work with the BHL portal. The GBIF meetings also provided a good opportunity to catch up with staff from iDigBio, including Deb Paul (Digitization and Technology Specialist).

* * * * * 

Other Resources

Amanita muscaria, Vallisaari, Finland

Martin Kalfatovic
BHL Program Director
Constance Rinaldo
Chair, BHL Members' Council
Librarian of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Monday, October 30, 2017

Join us for Seeds in the Stacks!

Join us for Seeds in the Stacks, a Facebook Live tour at the USDA National Agricultural Library! We'll go behind-the-scenes to explore selections from the Library's collection of over 200,000 seed and nursery catalogs.

3 November 2017 @ 1pm ET

The USDA National Agricultural Library is the newest BHL Member. Since joining the consortium as an Affiliate in 2014, NAL has contributed over 2 million pages to the BHL collection, including a significant portion of its Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection. To date, NAL has contributed over 33,000 catalogs from this collection to BHL. The catalogs can be viewed in BHL as part of the Seed & Nursery Catalogs collection.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Service Update: Internet Archive Service Restored 29 October 2017

Status Update: 20:45 ET 29 October: Internet Archive is back online. Page images are correctly displaying in BHL. Thanks for your patience!

Internet Archive is currently down. As a result, page images are not displaying in BHL. We apologize for the inconvenience, and we will update this post as soon as service is restored. #StayTuned

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Birds of the World, German Edition

Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. Johann Lathams allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel. Bd.2:t.2 (1795). German translation of John Latham's A General Synopsis of Birds. Digitized by Natural History Museum Library, London.

At the end of the eighteenth century, the "father of German ornithology" began publishing a German translation of General Synopsis of Birds, an important work by John Latham, the "grandfather of Australian ornithology" [5][6].

This German edition, entitled Johann Lathams Allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel ([1792] 1793-1812), was translated and edited by Johann Matthäus Bechstein (1757-1822). As his moniker suggests, Bechstein was a pioneer in German ornithology, having produced what is often regarded as the "first modern handbook of German birds," Gemeinnèutzige Naturgeschichte [5]. With his translation of Latham's work, Bechstein made descriptions of worldwide bird species more accessible to German readers.

Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. Johann Lathams allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel. Bd.1:t.1 (1793). German translation of John Latham's A General Synopsis of Birds. Digitized by Natural History Museum Library, London.

Latham's General Synopsis of Birds, published in three volumes between 1781-1785 and supplements in 1787 and 1801, not only provided a natural history of the birds of the world but also importantly presented many Australian species to the European public for the first time [6].

Born at Eltham, Kent, England in 1740, Latham trained as a physician and set up a medical practice in Darenth at the age of 23. After he was established, Latham began a more concentrated study of natural history, amassing a library and collection of specimens to support his research. By 1800, Latham had recorded around 3,000 bird species [3].

Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. Johann Lathams allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel. Bd.1:t.2 (1793). German translation of John Latham's A General Synopsis of Birds. Digitized by Natural History Museum Library, London.

Latham's period of ornithological study coincided with the arrival in England of a wealth of specimens and drawings from Australia. These collections, resulting from Captain Cook’s voyages to Australia and Polynesia (1769-75), included many new-to-science bird species [1]. As a friend and correspondent of many of England's leading naturalists, Latham had access to these collections. He included descriptions and illustrations of some of these species within his General Synopsis of Birds [2].

Latham provided only vernacular descriptions for the species in his General Synopsis and its first supplement. In 1790, after realizing that he would only receive credit for naming the species if he provided Latin binomials under the Linnaean system, Latham published Index Ornithologicus, a systematic catalog assigning binomial names and taxonomic classifications to the birds in the three volumes and first supplement of General Synopsis [7]

Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. Johann Lathams allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel. Bd.3:t.1 (1796). German translation of John Latham's A General Synopsis of Birds. Digitized by Natural History Museum Library, London.

Unfortunately, between 1788-1789, German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin had published an expanded edition of Linnaeus's Systema Naturae, providing Latin names for many of Latham's birds. These names have priority over those published in Index Ornithologicus, and as such Gmelin is credited as the first to scientifically describe many of the species first introduced through Latham's General Synopsis [2].

However, Latham is still the authority for many of the names in the Index and second supplement, and he is recognized as the first to scientifically describe many iconic species, such as the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus), and Australian species, including the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). His extensive contributions to Australian ornithology earned him the nickname the "grandfather of Australian ornithology" [2].

Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. Johann Lathams allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel. Bd.4:t.1 (1811). German translation of John Latham's A General Synopsis of Birds. Digitized by Natural History Museum Library, London.

The four volumes of Bechstein's Johann Lathams Allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel constitute German translations of the three volumes and first supplement of General Synopsis as well as the Index Ornithologicus. In addition to the translation, Bechstein added "much additional matter" [7]. Each volume (or band) was issued in two parts (or theils). The plates are largely reproductions of those from General Synopsis, many of which Latham designed and etched himself [6].

Bechstein's legacy extends well beyond his translation of Latham's ornithological work. He was not only a pioneer in German ornithology, but he also contributed extensively to studies on forestry, founding the school of forestry at Waltershausen in 1795 and being named the director of the forestry school at Dreissigacker in 1800. He was also an early advocate for wildlife conservation, encouraging protection for many species then deemed pests, including bats [4].

Bechstein, Johann Matthäus. Johann Lathams allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel. Bd.3:t.2 (1798). German translation of John Latham's A General Synopsis of Birds. Digitized by Natural History Museum Library, London.

You can browse more of Bechstein's works in BHL.

Thanks to the Natural History Museum Library, London, you can freely explore all four bands, constituting eight volumes in total, of Johann Lathams Allgemeine Uebersicht der Vögel in BHL.

By Grace Costantino
Outreach and Communication Manager
Biodiversity Heritage Library

With contributions from:

Harriet Campbell Longley 
Researcher Services Assistant 
Natural History Museum Library and Archives, London


[1] Ashworth, William B. Jr., 2016. "Scientist of the Day - John Latham." Linda Hall Library, February 4.
[2] Calaby, J.H. "Latham, John (1740–1837)." Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Published first in hardcopy 1967.
[3] Jackson, Christine E., Ann Datta, and R.I. Vane-Wright. 2013. "Dr John Latham, F.L.S. and His Daughter Ann." The Linnean, 29(1), pp. 15-30.
[4] Johann Matthäus Bechstein. UpClosed.
[5] Mey, Eberhard. 2003. "Johann Matthäus Bechstein: The Father of German Ornithology." Rudolstädter nat. hist. Schr., 11, pp.63.
[6] Olsen, Penny. 2001. Feather and Brush: Three Centuries of Australian Bird Art. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing. pp. 28.
[7] Zimmer, John Todd. 1926. Catalog of the Edward E. Ayer Ornithological Library, Part II. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. pp. 373-374.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In-copyright titles added in the 3rd quarter of 2017

From July to September of this year, BHL received permission for 43 new in-copyright titles, all as part of the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project. This is a slight increase over the numbers added in the first two quarters.

BHL licenses content under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license

Below are the 43 titles added in the second quarter, in the order permission was secured. For those that have already been scanned or uploaded, links are available. Look for the rest as they're added to the collection; you can check the recent additions, or see all the permission titles available in BHL on the permissions page.

Titles in BHL have been digitized/contributed by the rights holders unless otherwise stated.

  • Journal of the Alabama Academy of Science
  • Green Thumb News
  • Green Thumb Newsletter
  • Mountain, Plain, and Garden
  • The Green Thumb
  • AAZK Bulletin
  • AAZK Newsletter
  • Ruptured Rhino
  • Avicultural Magazine
  • Oregon Flora Newsletter

  • Arboretum Bulletin
  • University of Washington Arboretum Bulletin
  • Washington Park Arboretum Bulletin
Lunds Botaniska Förening
  • Opera Botanica, v.42 (1977)
  • A Teaching Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of Greater New York, Including the Kinds Most Commonly Seen in Cultivation (1933 and 1947 editions)
  • Guide to Trees and Shrubs Based on Those of Greater New York: Native, Naturalized, and Commonly Cultivated Exotic Kinds
  • Leaflet / Leaflets
  • Plants and Gardens
  • Plants of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York
Florida Exotic Plant Pest Council and Southeast Exotic Plant Pest Council
  • Wildland Weeds
University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
  • Tulane Studies in Geology
  • Tulane Studies in Geology and Paleontology

  • Contributions in Marine Science
  • University of Texas at Austin Bulletins and Publications
  • African Violet Magazine
  • Ohio Biological Survey Notes
  • Bulletin
  • Bulletin of the Maryland Herpetological Society
  • Maryland Naturalist
  • Maryland: A Journal of Natural History
  • Proceedings
  • Bulletin of the Texas Ornithological Society
  • Occasional Publications
  • Agave
  • Saguaroland Bulletin
  • The Sonoran Quarterly
  • Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club
  • Proceedings of the XIIIth Ornithological Congress
  • The Daffodil Bulletin
  • The Daffodil Journal
BHL thanks the many individuals and organizations who have so generously allowed their publications to be digitized and made available to the world under open access. If there's a book or journal you would like to see in BHL, please let us know!

And as always, don't forget to follow BHL on Facebook, Twitter (@BioDivLibrary), InstagramPinterest, and Tumblr.

Friday, October 20, 2017

From Jean-Baptiste Tavernier to the Smithsonian: Tracing the History of the Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond. Photo by Chip Clark, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution. Photo ID 97-35270.

The Hope Diamond is one of the most famous gems in the world. It attracts millions of visitors to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) each year, making it one of the Smithsonian's most popular objects. Today (20 October 2017) marks the 20th anniversary of the Museum's Geology, Gems, and Minerals Hall, the present home of the Hope. NMNH is celebrating on social media with #GGMturns20.

But what is the history of this famous jewel? How did it come to be the Hope Diamond?

The known history of the stone begins with French gem merchant and traveler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, whose travels through Asia in the 17th century are recorded in The Six Voyages of John Baptista Tavernier (1678), which has been digitized in BHL by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Libraries Program.

Title Page. Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste. The six voyages of John Baptista Tavernier. 1678. Digitized by the United States Geological Survey Libraries Program.

Born to a cartographer in 1605, Tavernier demonstrated a love for travel as early as his teens. Over the course of nearly forty years, Tavernier embarked on six major trips, or "voyages", to Persia and India, covering by his account 180,000 miles. He became a successful jewel merchant and, according to the Smithsonian's Mineral Sciences Department website, "the first European to describe the diamond mines in India." He first published an account of his journeys in 1676 with Les Six Voyages de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, with an English translation by John Phillips appearing two years later in 1678.

Most likely during his sixth and final voyage to India between 1664-1668, Tavernier obtained a remarkable blue diamond weighing approximately 115 modern metric carats. Dubbed the "Tavernier Blue," the stone was certainly mined in India, but the specific mine is not known. Tavernier detailed this diamond in his Six Voyages.

Sketch of the "Tavernier Blue" (Upper Left, "A"). Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste. The six voyages of John Baptista Tavernier. 1678. Digitized by the United States Geological Survey Libraries Program.

In 1668 or 1669 (sources vary), Tavernier sold the diamond to Louis XIV of France for 220,000 livres. According to François Farges, curator of minerals and gems at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, the stone was likely worth twice that amount.

Why would Tavernier sell the gem so cheaply?

According to Richard W. Wise, author of The French Blue, Tavernier received a patent of nobility, likely as part of the deal, which at the time could be obtained for approximately 400,000-500,000 livres. Additionally, as Wise writes, selling the jewel to the King of France was good publicity for Tavernier. Furthermore, given the economic state of many other European royals at the time, Tavernier was unlikely to receive a better offer.

Louis XIV later ordered court jeweler Jean Pittan the Younger to recut the stone to reflect a more European style favoring symmetry and brilliance over size and weight. The resulting 69 carat heart-shaped diamond became commonly known as the "French Blue." The diamond later became part of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a emblem of knighthood featuring many precious stones.

Color illustration of the Order of the Golden Fleece, containing the French Blue. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution. Creator: Pierre-André Jacqumin.

Then, in 1789, France changed. The French Revolution ignited, and in 1791, the French Crown Jewels, including the Order of the Golden Fleece containing the French Blue, were turned over to the revolutionary government and moved to the royal storehouse, Garde-Meuble. The jewels were put on public display until 1792, when the French Blue, along with many other Crown Jewels, were stolen.

And here, the French Blue is lost.

Fast forward to London, 1812. A jeweler named John Francillon makes a note and sketches of a 45.5 carat blue diamond that he examined "by leave of" London diamond merchant Daniel Eliason. Known as the "Francillon Memo", this is the first reference to the Hope Diamond as it is known today.

It was American gemologist and former "special agent" for the USGS, George Frederick Kunz, who unearthed this important piece of the Hope's provenance when he discovered the "Francillon Memo" inside a copy of Pouget's Traité des pierres précieuses et de la maniere de les employer en parure (1762) whilst browsing in London's Quartich's bookshop.

The Francillon Memo inside a copy of Pouget's Traité des pierres précieuses et de la maniere de les employer en parure (1762), from the USGS Libraries collection. Photo by: Kelly Haberstroh.

Today, this memorandum, as well as the Pouget book it was discovered within, are part of the George F. Kunz Collection at the USGS Libraries Program. Containing many rare books on gemology, the folklore of gemstones through history, lapidary arts and archival gem trade records, the Library acquired this significant collection in 1933 after Kunz's death. The copy of Tavernier's Six Voyages within BHL is a part of the USGS Kunz Collection.

Interestingly, the "Francillon Memo" was dated September 19, 1812, just two days after the expiration of the statute of limitations for crimes committed during the French Revolution. In other words, France could no longer prosecute for reclamation of the diamond, should they happen to recognize the stone for what it truly was.

Whilst the connection between the French Blue and the Hope Diamond has long been suspected, in 2005 scientists at the Smithsonian announced that archival research and computer models had allowed them to conclude that the Hope was almost certainly cut from the French Blue.

The gem was most likely recut to hide its true identity. But who directed this to happen?

In 2009, Farges and his colleagues published research involving a lead model of the French Blue that suggests it may have been Henry Philip Hope, the diamond's namesake, who privately acquired and directed the stone to be recut sometime between 1792-1812, after which it eventually ended up with Eliason, a client of Hope's family firm. Hope would eventually officially acquire the diamond by 1839, after it was allegedly sold from George IV of England's collection following his death in 1830 (George IV's ownership of the Hope has never been officially confirmed).

In the early twentieth century, after Hope's great-grandnephew, Lord Francis Hope (who inherited the Hope Diamond), sold the stone in the midst of financial difficulties resulting from his lavish lifestyle, the diamond passed through multiple owners before it was finally donated by jeweler Harry Winston to the Smithsonian in 1958.

Models of the Hope Diamond in its three known states: Tavernier Blue (top), French Blue (bottom left), and the Hope Diamond (bottom right). Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution. Creator Stephen Attaway.

Thus stands the history of the Hope Diamond, from its appearance in Tavernier's Six Voyages to its exhibition at the Smithsonian. Thanks to the USGS Libraries Program, a record of the stone's earliest known history is freely available to the world through the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

You can view all of the illustrations from Tavernier's Six Voyages in the BHL Flickr.

About the USGS Libraries Program

The USGS Libraries Program, authorized by Congress in 1879, is the world’s largest earth and natural sciences library, providing services, collections, and expertise that are essential to the U.S. Geological Survey mission. The Libraries Program is made up of four branches that provide resources, collections, and services. The library collections include over 1,500,000 volumes, 2.500,000 maps, 30,000 field records, and 500,000 historical photos. Over thirty-six percent of the materials are unique to USGS, or available at ten or fewer libraries in the world. The rare collections can support research in biodiversity, specifically with literature from paleobotany and paleoclimatology as well as some surprising gems from early biological research both in the United States and across the world.


Buncombe, Andrew. 2005. "'Cursed' Hope Diamond Was Cut from French Stone, Test Shows." The Independent, February 11. Accessed September 13, 2017.

Farges, Francois, et al. 2009. "The French Blue and the Hope: New Data from the Discovery of a Historical Lead Cast." Gems & Gemology 45, no. 1 (Spring): 4-19. Accessed September 13, 2017.

The Public Domain Review. 2017. "The Six Voyages of John Baptista Tavernier." Accessed September 13, 2017.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 2017. "Timeline." Hope Diamond, April 19. Accessed September 13, 2017.

Wikipedia. 2017. "John Francillon." September 1. Accessed September 13, 2017.

Wise, Richard W. 2009. "From the Sun King to the Smithsonian The Epic Journey of the Hope Diamond." The French Blue. Accessed September 13, 2017. 

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 Executive Director Patricia Van Skalk, 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.