Das zoologische Museum der Universität zu Berlin. Hinrich LICHTENSTEIN.
Das zoologische Museum der Universität zu Berlin.
Das zoologische Museum der Universität zu Berlin.

Das zoologische Museum der Universität zu Berlin.
Das zoologische Museum der Universität zu Berlin.

Berlin: Ferdinand Dümmler, 1816.

Octavo, folding plate, single page errata, neat library stamps to title-page, author's presentation note to inside front cover "vom Verfasser"; an excellent copy, original pink wrappers.

Author's presentation copy of this rare early catalogue for the Zoological Museum of the University of Berlin, with early notices of many Australian species. This collection formed the basis of the famous Museum für Naturkunde, now the largest natural history museum in Germany.

Author's presentation copy of this rare early catalogue for the Zoological Museum of the University of Berlin, with early notices of many Australian species. This collection formed the basis of the famous Museum für Naturkunde, now the largest natural history museum in Germany.
The catalogue gives a fascinating glimpse into the way the collection was organised. As is the case with contemporary English institutions such as those of Sir Ashton Lever and William Bullock, these catalogues are often the only tangible printed source of information relating to these foundation museums. In this light, it is interesting that this catalogue shows a healthy and sustained interest in Australia and the Pacific; indeed, German scientists have long been at the forefront of the study of these regions. To cite just one example, the catalogue includes a lengthy - if somewhat baffled - note on their platypus specimens, which are noted as being displayed near an Echidna (pp. 23-4).
The Museum was particularly good regarding birds (they note some 2320 specimens), and again several are listed as having been gathered in the Pacific, including the bronze-wing dove from New South Wales (p. 49), the Patagonian Penguin from the South Seas, and the Rockhopper Penguin (listed from New Holland; p. 65). The catalogue also notes that they have a "small" East Indian cassowary, but are keen to have one of the varieties from New Holland: it is probably fair to assume that they mean the Emu, given that Europeans did not see a specimen of the Australian cassowary until mid-century.
Lichtenstein (1780-1857) was a well-regarded scientist, known for his account of his travels in southern Africa between 1803 and 1806. In 1813 he was appointed director of the Zoological Museum, which he had helped found. He went on to be heavily involved with the Berlin Botanical Gardens, and is particularly remembered as the editor of Johann Forster's Descriptiones animalium, which had been completed within a month of the return of Cook's second voyage, but was not published until 1844.
As this catalogue attests, it was in 1809 that the previously scattered ethnography and natural history collections of the University of Berlin were unified by the King of Prussia, and the museum was formally opened the following year. The overthrow of Napoleon in 1814 led to the most drastic shift in the way the Zoological Museum was regarded, particularly with it being made more widely open to the public and to students. The core of the zoological collections comprised specimens from Count Johann Centurius von Hoffmannsegg and the Siberian-explorer Peter Simon Pallas.

Provenance: From the author

Price (AUD): $5,850.00  other currencies     Ref: #3812975

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