Popular Science Monthly/Volume 81/September 1912/George Marcgrave, The First Student of American Natural History
|GEORGE MARCGRAVE, THE FIRST STUDENT OF AMERICAN NATURAL HISTORY|
STATE NORMAL COLLEGE, GREENSBORO, N. C.
"GEORGE MARCGRAVE was born at Liebstadt in Saxony in 1610, went as physician with the expedition of Count Maurice of Nassau-Siegen to Brazil in 1638, wrote 'Historia Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ' and died on the coast of Guinea in 1644." Such are the accounts, when divested of errors, given of Marcgrave in our biographical dictionaries.
However, the present writer, having had occasion to trace back to Marcgrave, as the original describer and figurer of the species or genus, three American fishes on whose life histories he has worked, has become somewhat acquainted with his career. Finding this of much interest, he has endeavored to collect the scattering data and has worked it into this sketch, hoping that other present-day students of natural history may also find it of interest to know something of this man who first of all essayed to make known to the old world the real natural history of the new. If in this sketch the present writer has helped to make Marcgrave's excellent work known, and to give him the recognition he justly deserves, he will feel abundantly repaid.
As the sequel will show, the material for a sketch of Marcgrave's life is scanty, widely scattered and hidden in little-known sources. Considerable time and effort have been spent during the past year in getting it together, but the amount of data would have been comparatively limited save for the help and cooperation of a number of librarians.
Our knowledge of Marcgrave's early life is especially scanty, our most reliable and almost only authority being Manget or the unknown writer in his "Bibliotheca Scriptorum Medico rum," 1731, whose account the others probably copied.
From him we learn that George Marcgrave was born September 10, 1610, at Liebstadt, a town of Meissen in upper Saxony. He came of a good family which had lived in Liebstadt for two hundred years. His father and his maternal grandfather were men well educated for that time, being "learned in theology and in Latin and Greek."
These men, seeing that Marcgrave was a boy of fine character and great promise, seem to have devoted much time and attention to bis education. They taught him Latin and Greek and saw to it that his talents in music and painting were developed, so that he turned out to be no mean musician and "a painter not to be contemned." These same wise parents seeing that, if Marcgrave would ever do anything in the world, he must get out into the world, exhorted him to travel and study, and he, nothing loth, set out in 1627 in the seventeenth year of his life, and did not return to the paternal roof for eleven years.
During this time he visited and studied mathematics, botany, chemistry and medicine at ten German universities (academiæ). These were Argentorata, Basel, Ingoldstadt, Altdorff, Erfurt, Wittenberg, Leipsic, Griefswald and Rostock, where he dwelt and studied with Simon Paulli, a distinguished botanist. Thence he went to Stettin, where he spent two years studying astronomy with Laurence of Eichstadt, the most celebrated astronomer of his time. Here Marcgrave seems to have become so proficient that he was of material assistance to his teacher in working out certain astronomical ephemerides, and Manget tells us that the latter gave credit to him in the preface of his work published in 1634.
After traveling in the north of Germany and in Denmark, Marcgrave went to Leyden in Holland, where he spent two years, devoting his nights to the study of astronomy from the tower or observatory of the university and his days to botanizing in the gardens and fields. His masters here were Adolphus Vorstius and Jacob Golius, the former a botanist and the latter an astronomer.
Marcgrave was now in his twenty-eighth year, and in the plenitude of his powers both physical and intellectual. His travel and study of
the past eleven years, his residence and work in the various universities, his intimate association with the learned professors he had met, especially the four named above, had tremendously stimulated him. He had received the best that Europe had to give, but he was not content. Manget says that he constantly had before him the saying of his father and grandfather that the world lay open before him.
While in Leyden he received another great and even more powerful stimulus, one which was to determine his whole future life. Amsterdam, twenty-two miles away, was the headquarters of the Dutch West India Company. This company had been formed, not, like its great confrere of the East Indies, for trade and colonization, but primarily to harry the New World trade and settlements of the Spaniards and Portuguese, the ultimate objects being to capture treasure ships and to create a diversion in favor of the Belgians, with whom the Spaniards were at war. In the course of events, however, the Dutch had captured and at that time held the whole of the northeast coast of Brazil.
Marcgrave knew many Dutchmen who had returned from Brazil, and their stories of the new world fired his imagination and tremendously stirred his ambition. He seems to have made up his mind to go to Brazil, not as a mere adventurer, but as a student and scientist. Manget tells us that
Living in Amsterdam at this time was Jan de Laet, "Prefect" or managing director of the Dutch West India Company. Marcgrave knew De Laet and sought his influence and help, and so successfully that he was appointed astronomer to the company was so enrolled on its archives, and was assigned in that capacity for investigation in Brazil.
Accordingly, Marcgrave left Holland, which he was destined never again to see, on January 1, 1638, and after a voyage of two months reached the coast of Brazil. This expedition was under the leadership of Johann Moritz, Count of Nassau-Siegen, to whom was entrusted the supreme command of the Dutch conquests in the New World, and who had preceded Marcgrave into Brazil by a little more than a year. This remarkable man was not merely a great soldier and statesman, but was a lover and cultivator of the sciences in which he was no mean student. On this expedition he took with him as his immediate family, Franz Plante, his court preacher (who afterwards became professor of theology at Breda), and William Piso, his body physician, while later there joined him George Marcgrave, astronomer and geographer, and Henry Cralitz, a young German student, who unfortunately died shortly after arriving in Brazil.
Piso was physician to Count Maurice and chief surgeon of the troops. It seems probable that he was also head of the scientific work of the expedition (Driesen, De Crane) since he was a much older and more experienced man than Marcgrave. However, so far as the natural history work was concerned, Piso limited himself closely to that aspect of it which was purely medical, as will be shown later. Marcgrave on the other hand had a much wider field. He certainly practised medicine to some extent, but his larger activities were given to astronomy, geography and natural history, in all three of which branches he did an enormous amount of work, as the sequel will show.
Marcgrave, who seems possibly to have been known to Count Maurice in Holland, before he had been in Brazil many months thoroughly established himself in the favor of his patron. Manget assures us that this was due first of all to the fact that Marcgrave had some knowledge of military architecture. This knowledge was probably made of service to the Count in the building of his new capital, Mauritia, in the environs of Pernambuco.
Be that as it may, Marcgrave certainly rose rapidly in the esteem of his chief, for we find that the latter built for him in 1639 in the city of Mauritia an astronomical observatory of stone from which Marcgrave studied the motions of the stars, their risings and settings, their sizes, distances and other phenomena.
To care for these extensive collections, his generous friend and
patron (according to Lichtenstein and Driesen) had gardens, cages and fish-ponds constructed in Mauritia. Manget further tells us that Count Maurice called himself the disciple of Marcgrave, and as we shall see later, in his hours of leisure took a considerable part in working up these collections.
In his collecting tours, Marcgrave seems to have pretty thoroughly explored the northeastern part of Brazil, particularly those regions embraced in the present states of Pernambuco, Parahyba and Eio Grande do Norte. How many of these exploratory journeys Marcgrave made is not known, but that he made at least three is certain and for this reason. It seems that from the time of leaving Holland he kept a journal, and that this journal for the years 1638, 1639 and 1640 fell into the hands of the unknown writer in Manget. This man expressly says that the journal for these trips was written up day by day and that he had it in his possession. What became of the journals for the other three and one half years (1641-1644) he did not know.
The first of these journeys was undertaken on June 21, 1639, and lasted for thirty-nine or forty days. The second, begun on October 20, 1640, lasted twenty days. The third and shortest covered the time from December 8 to December 19, 1640. How many other explorations Marcgrave made can not be said, but, even if there were no other extended ones, there was no lack of opportunities for studying natural history, since he had but to go outside the city or camp to find himself surrounded by plants and animals new and hitherto unknown to the scientific world.
It must not be supposed, however, that, because the jungle could be reached in a short distance from the camps, it was easy to see, much less to collect, the animals found therein. All explorers and naturalists in the wilds of Brazil have strongly emphasized the fact that one may travel hours and even days through the forests without ever seeing or even hearing bird or beast. This is, of course, due to the very dense vegetation and to the fact that most of the forest dwellers are likewise tree-top dwellers and are found high up in and on the tops of the trees. The wonder is that Marcgrave, in the wild and unsettled condition of the country and with his limited knowledge of the habits of the animals he sought, should have amassed such valuable material. That he let slip no opportunity to add to his collections and to his observations will be shown later, and it is probable that, having become acclimated and having laid the foundation of an acquaintance with the fauna and flora of Brazil, the years 1641-44 witnessed far more scientific activity on his part than the preceding three years.
At last the time came (May, 1644) when, his work having been brought to a stop by the preparations of his chief to return to Holland, he determined to go home also. Concerning this matter the unknown writer in Manget is very explicit, so much so that it seems well to quote him in full:
So died and went to his grave at the age of thirty-four, at the zenith of his activities and reputation, George Marcgrave, who, had he lived but a few years longer to have put into shape his Brazilian collections and observations, would certainly have raised himself to the rank of the first natural historian of his time, and possibly that of greatest since Aristotle.
The scientific fruits of this expedition to Brazil of Count Maurice, of Piso, and especially of Marcgrave, are of four kinds: (1) the astronomical and mathematical MSS. of Marcgrave; (2) the extensive natural history collections; (3) the MSS. of Marcgrave and Piso dealing with the natural history and medicinal matters of Brazil; and (4) the two sets of figures of Brazilian plants and animals, the one in oil and the other in water colors, which will later be referred to.
With reference to the natural history collections which Count Maurice brought back from Brazil, Lichtenstein tells us that in addition to the material amassed by Marcgrave in his explorations, the Count sent expeditions east to Africa and west as far as the Pacific (note Maregrave's paper on the Chileans, with the figure of the llama, referred to later), and that these brought back many natural history objects. To care for these specimens, the Count converted Freiburg into a museum, and its grounds into a botanical-zoological park. (Van Kampen.)
When at length this illustrious patron of the natural sciences determined to return to Holland, he stripped Freiburg and its grounds of their treasures, and so voluminous were these ("the richest ever brought to Europe in one vessel") that Lichtenstein affirms that Count Maurice supplied his own museum, those of two universities (Leyden being one) and those of many private individuals (Martius notes Seba's especially) with such an abundance of natural-history material, that at the end of a one hundred years it had not all been worked up.
That these collections were largely the work of Marcgrave seems more than likely. And indicative of the care which he bestowed on his specimens and of the value set upon them as a result, the following quotation from Manget is in point.
With reference to Marcgrave's mathematical and astronomical work, we know little about its extent and even less about its content. That he drew plans for camps, cities and fortifications, and made maps of the regions explored, we are told by the writer in Manget. In addition to these there were MSS. of more important character brought back by Count Maurice from Brazil.
De Laet, who was Marcgrave's literary executor, tells us in the preface to Marcgrave's part of the 1648 folio that from notes found among Marcgrave's papers it is clear that our author had worked up his mathematical and astronomical data into a great work in three parts under the title, "Progymnastica Mathematica Americana."
From certain statements found in the various prefaces and introductions to both the 1648 and 1658 folios, it seems rather probable that Piso had charge of these MSS.; but at any rate it is certain that practically all of the papers in the first and second sections were by order of Count Maurice or De Laet turned over for editing and publication to Golius, the Leyden astronomer and former teacher of Marcgrave. Unfortunately, they seem to have been lost, at any rate, it is certain that they were never published.
In this opinion De Crane also joins, and he intimates further that Huygens also merely rediscovered some of the things which Marcgrave had observed.
De Crane, followed by Van Kampen and Driesen, who undoubtedly copy him, alleges that the reason why Golius never published these MSS. was that they were written in cipher. This, however, seems to be an error, since it is not confirmed by De Laet or by any other writers on Marcgrave's life so far as I can ascertain. The internal evidence bearing on Marcgrave's cipher MSS. will be taken up later. However, with regard to the astronomical tables of the third section, Lalande makes the following interesting statement:
Elsewhere Lalande also notes that Flamsteed had examined Marcgrave's observations on the Ecliptic. These references would seem plainly to indicate that these MSS. were not in cipher.
De Crane alleges that the copy is on deposit in the archives of the French Marine, and Van Kampen thinks that these papers fell into Spanish hands (how he does not say) and that they were made use of by Godin and de Ulloa in their work of measuring a degree of longitude on the plateau of Ecuador in 1835. However, careful search on the part of the present writer has failed to reveal any notice of them in de Ulloa's account of his travels in South America.
One of these MSS. alone has come down to us. Barlæus (1647) seems to have preserved, and Piso in the 1658 folio has published, Marcgrave's "Tractatus Topographicus et Meteorologicus Brasiliæ cum Eclipsi Solaris" (of 1640). While this is based on Marcgrave's own observations, still it is known that to give him more extended data Count Maurice had ordered all the Dutch ship masters in Brazil to make careful notes and even drawings of the eclipse and turn them over to Marcgrave.
It is interesting to note Marcgrave's own statement of his work found in his preface to the Progymnastica as quoted by De Laet (1648 folio).
Just as the tower of Freiburg, which was given over to Marcgrave's use, was probably the first astronomical observatory ever erected in the southern hemisphere, so it is also probable that Marcgrave's observations of the southern stars were the first ever made in the history of the world. For this reason, even if we do not take into account their scientific value, their loss is irreparable.
Fate, however, has been kinder to us in the matter of Marcgrave's natural-history papers, since these have come down to us fairly complete. However, before taking up their history in any detail it will be necessary to advert to a very unpleasant topic, namely, the relations between Marcgrave and Piso.
The collection of material for the present paper had not gone very far when it was found that Marcgrave had written his "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ" in cipher. This with other indications led to the conclusion that the relations between himself and Piso were strained. To the unknown writer in Manget, all the principals in this expedition to Brazil were known personally; this he tells us in so many words. Also, he writes:
Further, this writer seems to have known of many things which he alleges would redound to anything but the credit of Piso. Making due allowance for the partisanship of this biographer, it does seem that Piso living had appropriated to himself much of the credit of Marcgrave dead. Further, it should be borne in mind that Piso went to Brazil as surgeon in chief to the expedition, his scientific work being incidental; while Marcgrave went as a scientist and student, his medical work being incidental. (Piso, Preface, 1648.) While in the 1648 folio, edited by Marcgrave's friend De Laet, Piso gives large credit to Marcgrave, in the 1658 folio, as we shall see later (De Laet having died in 1649 or 1650), he combines Marcgrave's work with his own, giving the latter credit in marginal references only.
In both the 1648 and 1658 folios Piso in the prefaces calls Marcgrave "meus domesticus." Even if we give this the most favorable translation, "of my household," it still indicates that Marcgrave was subordinate to him. Elsewhere there are given a number of instances in which Piso plainly means to convey the idea that he was chief of the scientific staff and that Marcgrave had his work assigned by him (Piso). While it is probable that the exact facts can never be absolutely ascertained, it would seem that if Piso were scientific chief his headship was merely nominal. So far as the present writer has been able to learn, Piso's only preparation for scientific work consisted in his medical training, and this, it will be recognized, was very limited (he was born in 1596). Marcgrave, however, had had 11 years' study and training at the best German and Dutch universities, and was skilled not merely in medicine, but in botany, natural history, mathematics and astronomy. He was selected by De Laet and Count Maurice on account of these scientific attainments, was given the official post of astronomer with a definite salary, and was the intimate personal friend of Count Maurice, and as such was a member of his official family.
We learn from many sources, but above all from De Laet in his preface to Marcgrave's "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ," that this was written in the city of Mauritia and in cipher. It seems well to quote De Laet (1648 folio).
Speaking on this subject Lichtenstein conjectures:
And when one reads of his early and almost immediate death, and of the fate of his literary remains, his sound judgment in this matter is to be commended.
However, the present writer, in the light of the data noted above, wishes to call attention to the fact that the astronomical and mathematical papers embraced under the general title "Progymnastica Mathematica Americana" do not seem to have been written in cipher. The bearing of this on the Marcgrave-Piso controversy would seem to be that, since the latter had no mathematical training whatever, there was no danger of his appropriating these papers as his own in case any accident should befall their writer; but that such danger was. to be apprehended with reference to the natural-history papers, hence the cipher.ref>See foot-note to page 256.</ref> So cautious was Marcgrave that some things wore written in a second cipher (De Laet, Preface, 1648).
However, at last De Laet, who was a man of much learning and ability, completed his task in spite of two additional heavy handicaps. The first was that he was not skilled in natural science, the second that Marcgrave's notes were arranged in no order whatever, those on each animal occupying a separate sheet. The greatest trouble, however, was had with the notes on plants, since Marcgrave had not been able to describe at one time and on one sheet the plant in leaf, in flower and in fruit. These notes, it must be understood, Marcgrave had written in the field and in Mauritia, and it is plain that he intended to edit them to make a homogeneous whole after his return to Holland.
How well De Laet did this work those know who are acquainted with the "Historia Naturalis Brasiliæ" published at Leyden and Amsterdam in 1648 with the following dedication to Count Maurice:
The first section of the volume is composed of Piso's "De Medicina Brasiliensi" comprising four books: I. on Air, Water and Places; II. on Endemic Diseases; III. on Poisons and Their Antidotes; IV. on the Use of Simples (herbs as remedies). This, which is dedicated to William of Auriacum, covers in all 132 folio pages and is illustrated with 104 figures limited to books III. and IY. Of these, three illustrate mandioea and sugar-making, nine are of animals (five snakes, one scolopendra, one sea cucumber, one toad-fish, one frog) and 92 are of plants.
The second section, Marcgrave's "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ," is dedicated to the Count in the following eloquent terms.
This work comprised 303 folio pages, consisting of eight books and an appendix, and is illustrated by 429 figures. It is divided as follows: Book I., in which are described 149 herbs with 86 figures; Book II. contains descriptions of 48 shrubs and fruit-bearing plants with 39 illustrations; Book III. deals with trees, 104 being described and 75 figured; Book IV. treats of fishes and crustaceans, both fresh-water and marine, 105 of the former being described and 86 figured, the numbers for the latter being 26 and 19, respectively, and in addition one starfish is both described and delineated; Book V. contains descriptions of 115 birds, 54 of these being shown in figures; Book VI. deals with quadrupeds and contains descriptions of 46 and figures of 26, together with 19 reptiles, of which 7 are figured; Book VII. is devoted to insects, 55 being described and 29 figured; Book VIII., the last, has to do with the country, its aborigines and present inhabitants and has 5 illustrations. The Appendix treats of the inhabitants of Chile and contains two figures, one being probably the earliest known drawing of the llama.
Disregarding Book VIII. and the appendix with their seven figures we find that 301 plants are described and 200 figured. Of animals 367 are described and 222 figured. Of these 668 forms practically all were new to science and the 422 figured had probably never been drawn before.
Despite the fact that Marc-grave knew nothing of the subtleties of classification based on the structure and position of stamens and pistils in flowers, and on the count of fin-rays and lateral line scales in fishes, nevertheless his work in Brazil was an epoch-making one. In bringing to the notice of the scientists of Europe the wonders of Brazil, Marcgrave was the worthy predecessor of the Prince of Neuwied and of Spix and Martius. His history of the natural things of Brazil is probably the most important work on natural history after the revival of learning, and, until the explorations of the Prince of Neuwied were made known, certainly the most important work on Brazil.
But, in giving praise to whom praise is due, Count Maurice should not be overlooked, for it is certain that he alone made it possible for Marcgrave to do all this magnificent work. Van Kampen compares Count Maurice to Napoleon, who on his expedition to Egypt carried a numerous band of savants with him. Piso, however, likens him to Alexander, in which comparison Marcgrave and not himself must take the place of Aristotle. All honor to Count Maurice!
However, it is not the intention of the present writer to go into any extended analysis of the natural-history work of Marcgrave. This has long ago been done and most ably for a large part of the animals by Lichtenstein (1814-15, 1816-17) and for the plants by von Martius (1853-55). It is in the book on fishes that the present writer is most interested, and it does not seem out of place to quote the estimates of some of the great ichthyologists.
Cuvier and Valenciennes (1828) say:
Gunther (1880) writes:
Jordan (1905) notes that
Since copies of his figures are at hand for illustrating them, the present writer wishes to give here Marcgrave's descriptions of two rather well-known fishes as illustrative of the accuracy of his observations and the care with which he recorded them.
The first, whose figure, number 1, is herewith reproduced from his "Natural History of Brazil," is the spotted sting ray which we know as Aetobatus narinari. Marcgrave's description is as follows:
Its body is large, broad, almost triangular in shape, extending out on both sides into very broad triangular wings, which are fleshy in their make up. Near the tail it has two fins about the size of one's hand rounded in outline and of equal length. Its head, which is thick, compressed and furrowed in the middle, is about as large as that of a good-sized pig.
The mouth rounded underneath is triangular, compressed a little and terminates in a snout. The opening of the mouth is on the ventral surface, 5 inches from the end of the snout. The mouth is 21 inches wide, toothless, but having in the place of teeth a lower jaw in the shape of a tongue. This is 4 inches long, 11 inches wide, and reaches to the external opening of the mouth. Likewise there is an upper jaw placed crosswise, 2 inches long and as many wide.
The lower jaw consists of 17 hard white bones having the shape of the letter V and firmly joined to the membranes. Underneath there lie 17 other bones, one under each, of spongy appearance but not so hard. The upper jaw consists of 14 bones, shaped like the letter I and also joined together by membranes. Likewise there lie above these 14 other bones. Moreover, the two jaws are joined to the other bones of the head by membranes (cartilages).
The cavity of the skull, wherein the brain lies, is about 6 inches long and hardly 2 wide. The snout is wholly cartilaginous. The fish has two small eyes about the size of a nummus misnicus. Behind these eyes on each side is a large breathing hole capable of holding an apple of ordinary size. Within these holes the leaves of the gills lie hidden. On the lower side at the (hinder) end of the head are five oblong incisions.
The whole upper surface of the body is of a dark (ferreus) color with white spots the size of a nummus misnicus scattered over it, while the under part is entirely white. The skin is everywhere smooth and without scales.
The length of the body from the end of the snout to the root of the tail is one and one half feet; the width between the extremities of the triangular wings is 3 feet 10 inches. The length of the fins near the tail is 7 inches, the width 4. The length of the head is 10 inches, the width 7, and it is 11 feet thick. The tail is 4 feet 3 inches long and its thickness at the beginning is 5 inches, but it gradually becomes thinner. A little behind the beginning of the tail, there is a small short fin a little more than an inch long; and just behind this standing erect are two little hooks curved like fish hooks and 3 inches long. Its flesh has a good flavor and is sufficient to feed 40 men.
He thus describes the toad-fish:
The great excellence of Marcgrave's book, and that which distinguishes it from the works of Gesner and Aldrovandi, is that it is absolutely original. These naturalists, while they did great and good work for natural history, were compilers, copiers, men who systematized the observations of travelers, but who themselves never saw a tithe of the animals whose figures and descriptions they put into their great folios. Hence it is not strange that their pages are filled with figures of mythological monsters, which make it hard at times for the modern naturalist to give them the credit they deserve.
Not so Marcgrave, however. He went to Brazil and lived in its wilds. His figures and descriptions were made from the animals themselves, and very probably in most cases from life. Furthermore all or almost all of the plants and animals in his natural history of Brazil were new to science, yet his figures and descriptions are so accurate that the student of to-day can recognize them at a glance. The following incident will show the care with which he made his observations. In his descriptions of the spotted sting ray quoted above, he gave the number of teeth as 14 for the upper jaw and 17 for the lower. By an interesting coincidence the numbers were the same in the first specimen of this ray ever taken by the present writer.
That Piso took much part in editing the "Natural History of Brazil" (1648) seems from various indications very doubtful, and indeed Lichtenstein declares that in Piso's absence De Laet attended to the editing of the whole work. Whether he had any part in it or not, Piso became very dissatisfied and accused De Laet of doing his work hurriedly and superficially. Ten years later (1658) he published a great folio under the title "De Indiæ Utriusque Re Naturale et Medica" in the endeavor to improve on the previous work. The first part of this folio, which he dedicated to the Elector of Brandenburg, bears title as follows: "Historiæ Naturalis et Medicæ Indiæ Occidentalis" and consists of Marcgrave's Natural History of Brazil and Piso's Medicinal Plants of Brazil interwoven to form five books: I. on Climate; II. on Diseases; III. on Animals; TV. on Plants, and V. on Poisons and Antidotes. It covers 327 pages. Next comes Marcgrave's "Tractatus Topographicus," etc., as previously noted, 39 pages in length. Next he incorporates Jacob Bont's "Historiæ Naturales et Medicæ Indiæ Orientalis," 160 pages, and concludes with his own "Mantissa Aromatica," 66 pages.
Not only is this not an improvement on the preceding work, but in many respects it is distinctly inferior. Marcgrave's work on the plants of Brazil suffers abbreviation and loses its identity in becoming interwoven with Piso's data from the medical side. The animal section, however, suffers most for Piso was even less a zoologist than a botanist. It seems that he no longer had access to the original drawings (to be described presently) from which the illustrations were prepared for the first edition, so his figures were copied from the 1648 edition, or made up from the descriptions, or wrongly placed in the text, or omitted altogether (Lichtenstein). On the whole this edition adds little or nothing to Piso's reputation.
It is now necessary to speak of the fourth division of the scientific memorabilia of the expedition of Count Maurice to Brazil. In 1786, Schneider made known to the world the presence of these priceless treasures in the following; words.
Next Schneider goes on to express the wish that more authors like Bloch might illustrate their books from this magnificent set of paintings. Bloch not only was acquainted with these drawings but copied a large number of them in his "Ausländische Fische" and in his grand "Ichthyologie." In the preface to volume 6 of this latter work (1788). Bloch describes this collection of drawings as made on white parchment and consisting of two sets.
came to know of them through the preface to Volume VI. of the "Ichthyologie" but as to the fidelity of the reproduction let Cuvier and Valenciennes speak.
The set of drawings above referred to are in water colors and are thus labeled in the Royal Library of Berlin: "Brazilianische Naturgegenstände (Collectio rerum naturalium Brasiliæ) in two Bänden. Libri picturati A. 36. 37."
Their authorship and history will be discussed later. Figure three is a photograph of the painting in this collection of the spotted stingray, Narinari. When there is taken into account the fact that this water-color drawing is about 270 years old, one marvels at its freshness and clear-cut outlines. That it is wonderfully accurate, the present writer, who has devoted considerable study to this fish, can attest.
Along with the preceding lot of drawings in the Royal Library of Berlin is a large number of oil paintings bearing the following title: "Theatrum rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ. (Icones) in 4 Bänden. Libri picturati A. 32-35." The first reference to these in the literature is in an anonymous article, in Neue Zeitungen von Gelehrten Sachen, Erster Theil, No. 4, 1717, bearing the title ". . . Ausser diesen Ost-Indianischen Wereke ist in der Konigl-Bibliotheck auch ein West-Indianisches unter folgenden Titel enthalten, Theatrum rerum naturalium Brasiliæ, imagines, etc." This author notes that these oil paintings are in four bänden and that in the first are 357 fishes, in the second 303 birds, in the third 245 "other animals from men to insects," and in the fourth 555 plants, 1,460 in all. He refers to a smaller collection in water-colors but does not give the number of drawings in it.
In 1785, Boehmer in his "Bibliotheca Historiæ Naturalis," etc., gives a brief abstract of the preceding notice. The next reference is even still more obscure. Lichtenstein tells us that in 1811 Illiger brought these to the attention of the modern scientific world. Just what he did can not be said for in spite of every effort it has been impossible to run down this reference. From this fact we may perhaps judge it of little importance. Last of all Lichtenstein (1814-15) found them and has described them at length. His paper will be referred to later.
There can be no doubt that all these figures were made in Brazil and that Count Maurice brought them back with him in 1644. On his return this illustrious man was received in a manner befitting his distinguished services to the Dutch people and honor after honor was heaped upon him. In 1652 he entered the service of the great Elector of Brandenburg, by whom he was raised to the rank of prince. Between these two illustrious men a strong friendship arose, which was not broken until the death of the prince in 1679 at the age of 76, at which time he was governor of Berlin.
The two sets of drawings of Brazilian objects, from the smaller of which in the meantime the figures for the Natural History of Brazil had been made, were bequeathed by him to the knowledge-fostering Elector. By the latter they were placed in the hands of Dr. Christns Mentzel, the court physician and great favorite of the Elector, who was a skilled linguist, that they might be arranged in order, bound in volumes and preserved in the library of his capital, Berlin.The oil paintings, which were on separate sheets, were collected by Dr. Mentzel into 4 volumes now labelled "Libri Picturati A. 32-33-34-35," and the sheets were arranged in logical order and accompanied by the Brazilian names and the references to Marcgrave and
Piso where a fuller description can be found, also there are references to the water-color collection.
For this collection Dr. Mentzel had an illuminated title page painted, which is reproduced herein as Fig. 5. It seems that considerable time was expended in working out a classification of this collection, for the title page is dated 1660, the preface 1664. Through the courtesy of Dr. Perlbach, of the Royal Library of Berlin, this photograph of the title page and a copy of Mentzel's preface have been received. The latter unfortunately gives no additional data. However,
In this manner was preserved to posterity this invaluable collection of paintings. However they remained practically unknown for 150 years until Liehtenstein in 1814-17 in the Abhandlungen of the Berlin Academy made known their great worth. His first paper is preceded by an historical account and a critical discussion of the work of Marcgrave and Piso in Brazil which have been a source of inspiration and have supplied much data to the present writer. Then he follows with a critical discussion of both text and figures in the "Natural History of Brazil."The water-color drawings are also preserved in the Royal Library of Berlin, but it is not clear just how they came thither. However in working out the data found in Driesen. the following interesting facts
came to light. In 1652 Count Maurice transferred to the Elector of Brandenburg for the sum of 50,000 thalers a great collection of Brazilian curiosities. No money, however, seems to have changed hands, but the Elector transferred to the Count as security an extensive piece of property in the city of Cleve. The bill of sale or catalogue of the collection is dated February 18, 1652, and in it as given by Driesen number 14 reads
Driesen notes that of the two bänden noted under number 14, the first contains 455, the second 488 sheets commonly with but one drawing, while the inventory says in one place 100, and in another "several hundred." However, since the total number of drawings in tbe collection to-day aggregates 1,460, Driesen thinks (p. 109) that only a small number were acquired by purchase, the great bulk coming to the Elector as a gift from Prince Maurice.
There now presents itself the interesting question as to who made these paintings. We learn from Manget that Marcgrave was a skillful painter. Marcgrave in his dedication of the "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ" to Prince Moritz says that he (Marcgrave) made from life the figures contained in it. De Laet in his summary of Marcgrave's eight books says that the figures were drawn by the author. Comparison of the figures in Marcgrave's book with the two sets of drawings shows conclusively that these were made from the water-color paintings. Hence it is a sound conclusion that Marcgrave made the water-colors.
However since these water-color drawings bear notes in Prince Maurice's own handwriting (Mentzel and others expressly say that the Prince made them), Schneider, Bloch and Swainson think that he painted them. Lichtenstein, on the other hand, makes the following pertinent suggestion:
Furthermore to the present writer there seems to be strong grounds for thinking that Prince Maurice made some of these drawings himself. Lichtenstein tells us that the prince "with his learned assistants studied, described and figured the plants and animals of the country."
Comparison of the handwriting on the bottom of the water-color drawing of the spotted ray (Fig. 3), with the facsimile of a letter of Count Maurice's inserted in Driesen's text, leads to the belief that they were written by the same hand.
Lichtenstein, who has gone deeper than any one else into the question of the authorship of these figures, has satisfied himself that Marcgrave made the majority of the water-colors. Here follow the five points on which he bases his belief: (1) Marcgrave says that he drew them and Barlæus confirms this; (2) the characters in which the names are written are German rather than Hollandish; (3) in likeness and color they accord closely with Marcgrave's descriptions; (4) the wood cuts in Marcgrave's text were for the most part made from them; (5) no other than Marcgrave could have made them. However he further conjectures that since they are smaller and he thinks "of less skillful perfection" that they are copies of the oil paintings. The two figures of the spotted sting ray previously given are the only ones which the present writer has seen, but to him there is no doubt that the water-color drawing was made from life if either is a copy it is the oil painting, which, however, looks as if it had been made from a dead and dried specimen. In the mind of the present writer there is no doubt whatever that Marcgrave himself made all or almost all of these water-color paintings.
Not so easily determined is the authorship of the oil paintings, concerning which Lichtenstein conjectures that they were made by certain "nameless artists" who went with Count Maurice to Brazil. Cuvier and Valenciennes and Driesen content themselves with saying that they were painted by the order of the Count. Piso in the introduction to the 1658 folio says:
Hence it seems pretty well established that Count Johann had with him another painter besides Marcgrave.
However, Driesen (1849) very effectually clears up this mystery. He says that
Now Peter Post was in Brazil with Count Moritz and was the architect of the palace called Freiburg and of the surrounding gardens on the island of Antonio Vaez (Nieuhoff). That his brother accompanied him seems very probable.
Martius (1853-55) arrives at essentially the same conclusion, having probably obtained his data from Driesen. He expressly states that this artist came back from Brazil with the count. Further internal corroboratory evidence is to be found in this statement from De Laet in his "L'Histoire de Noveau Monde ou Description des Indies Occidentals" (1640):
These figures are so nearly identical with the like in Marcgrave's book that they must have been printed from the same blocks, or that both sets of blocks must have been made from the same paintings. It is of course possible that this "certain young man" was Marcgrave himself.
These then are the scientific fruits of the life of George Marcgrave. Of his "Progymnastica Mathematica Americana" but a fragment remains. His splendid "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ" was edited by an alien hand. His magnificent natural history drawings, the like of which the world had never seen before, were lost to the world for 150 years. His splendid collections were scattered to the four winds. His fate is surely a melancholy one. Cut off at the age of 34 at the very zenith of his powers, what a loss to the world. Recall the results of his six and one half years in Brazil. What would it have meant to science to have had him edit his own MSS., publish his own drawings, describe his own collections; in short, to have published his projected great "Natural History of Brazil," which was intended to embrace the inhabitants of the air, the land and the water, and of which but these splendid fragments remain, a mighty memorial to his genius. Well may Lichtenstein call them a "precious legacy," and ask if another country has ever had in its first exploration such a full and exhaustive account of its natural history. To quote further from Lichtenstein:
Had he lived, the present writer believes that our knowledge of the natural things of Brazil would have been more advanced in the year 1650 than it was in the year 1800.
After escaping the dangers of the deep, the accidents and epidemics of the camp and the siege (on two occasions of which he barely escaped with his life), after coming safely through the perils of forest and flood, of fever and wild beasts and poisonous snakes and cannibal savages, this able man came to his death of endemic fever in that pest hole of all the ages, the Gold Coast of west Africa, To die, at 34 years, at the zenith of his power, to leave unfinished his great work, what a loss to the world! Well may Lichtenstin call him one of the great heroes of science.
|1884.||Article Marcgrave—in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Leipzig.|
|1717.||Anonymous. . . . Ausser diesem Ost-Indianischen Wercke ist in der Konigl. Bibliotheck auch ein West-Indianisches unter folgendem Titel enthalten: Theatrum rerum naturalium Brasiliae, imagines, etc. Neue Zeitungen von Gelehrten Sachen, Erster Theil, No. IV., pp. 29 and 30.|
|1647.||Barlaeus, Caspar. Rerum per octennium in Brasilia et alibi nuper Gestarum, Historia, pp. 330-331. Amsterdam. Also Cleve, 1660, pp. 559.|
|1659.||Barlaeus, Caspar. Brasiliansche Geschichte Bey Achtjahriger inselbigen Landen gefuhrter Regierung Seiner Furstlichen Knaden Herrn Johann Moritz Furstens zu Nassau, pp. 839, 840, 841. Cleve.|
|1788.||Bloch, Marc Elieser. Ichthyologie, Vol. 6, Preface, pp. 5 and 6.|
|1785.||Boehmer, George Rudolph. Bibliotheca Scriptorum Historiæ Naturalis Œconomise Aliarumque Artium ac |Scientiarum, Vol. I., pp. 760-761.|
|1841.||Cuvier, Georges. Histoire des Sciences Naturelles, p. 141. Paris.|
|1828.||Cuvier and Valenciennes. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons, Vol. I.|
|1806.||De Crane, Io. Guil. Oratio de Ioanne Mauritio Nassaviase Principe Cognomine Americano, pp. 16, 24-29.|
|1640.||De Laet, Jan. L'Histoire du Noveau Monde ou Description des Indies Occidentales, Book V., p. 509. Leyden.|
|1849.||Driesen, Ludwig. Leben des Fursten Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen, pp. x and 101-112. Berlin.|
|1880.||Gunther, A. C. L. G. An Introduction to the Study of Fishes, p. 7.|
|1886.||Hallam, Henry. Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Vol. 3, Chap. IX.|
|1860.||Hoefer,—., Editor. Nouvelle Biographie Generale. Article Marcgrave.|
|1905.||Jordan, David Starr. A Guide to the Study of Fishes, Vol. I., Chap. XXII., History of Ichthyology, p. 389. New York.|
|1771.||Lalande, J. J. Le F. Astronomie (2d edition), Vol. II., p. 160; Vol. III., p. 142.|
|1814,||1815, 1816, 1817, 1826. Lichtenstein, Henry. Die Werke von Marcgrave und Piso über die Naturgeschichte Brasiliens erlautert aus den wieder aufgefunden Originalzeichungen. Abhandlungen der Koniglichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin, pp. 201-222; also volume for 1816-17, pp. 177; also volume for 1826, pub. 1829, p. 65.|
|1731.||Mangetus,—. Bibliotheca Scriptorum Medicorum, Vol. II., pp. 262.|
|1648.||Marcgrave, George. Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ. Leyden and Amsterdam.|
|1853,||1855. Martius, Fr. Ph. von. Versuch eines Commentars über die Pflanzen in den Werken von Marcgrave und |Piso über Brasilien. Abhandlungen der Math.—Phys. Classe der Koniglich Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Bd. 7, pp. 181-194.|
|1660.||Mentzel, Christus. Vorrede aus Theatrum rerum naturalium Brasiliæ.|
|1853.||Netscher, P. M. Les Hollandais au Bresil, Notice Historique sur les Pays-Bas et le Bresil au XVIIe Siecle, pp. 85 and 104-105. La Haye.|
|1813.||Nieuhoff, John. Voyages and Travels into Brazil (1640-49). Edited by Henry Nieuhoff. Found in A General Collection of Voyages and Travels in all Parts of the World, by John Pinkerton, Vol. XIV., pp. 710-11.|
|1648.||Piso, William. De Medicina Brasiliensi. Leyden and Amsterdam.|
|1658.||Piso, William. De Indiæ Utriusque Re Naturali et Medicæ. Amsterdam.|
|1786.||Schneider, J. G. Nachricht von den Originalzeichnungen von Marcgrafs bresilischer Zoologie. Leipziger Magazin zu Naturkunde und Oekonomie, drittes Hück, pp. 270-78.|
|1707.||Sloane, Hans. Voyage to Jamaica and Its Natural History, Vol. I., Preface. London.|
|1840.||Swainson, William. Taxidermy with the Biography of Zoologists, in the Cabinet Cyclopædia conducted by Dionysius Lardner, pp. 259-261.|
|1840.||Van Kampen, Nicolaas Godfried en Daniel Veegens. Joan Maurits van Nassau Siegen, gezeg de Amerikaan. In Drietal levensbeschrijvingen van beroemde mannen, pp. 280-90.|
- Also spelled Markgrave, Marggrave, Margrave, Markgraf, Marggraf, Marcgraf, but written by himself Marcgrave.
- The majority of the works cited have been consulted through the kind offices of Mr. Herbert Putnam, librarian, and Mr. W. W. Bishop, superintendent of the reading room of the Library of Congress. To Mr. Harry Clemons, reference librarian of the Princeton University Library, and to Mr. H. H. B. Meyer, chief bibliographer of the Library of Congress, the writer is indebted for many courtesies in matters of bibliography. To Mr. H. M. Lydenberg, reference librarian of the New York Public Library, his debt is great. Mr. Lydenberg has taken a personal interest in this work and has supplied data and references of which the writer, would never have heard but for his kindness. He is likewise under especial obligations to Dr. Perlbach, of the Royal Library of Berlin, for photographs of the original drawings of Brazilian objects (hereinafterwards reproduced), for references and for copies of articles not procurable in America. For help in translating the large number of Latin references used, the writer is under obligation to Misses Boddie and Dameron, of the Latin department of this college. To all who have so kindly helped in making this article cordial thanks are returned.
- The authorship of this sketch is an interesting problem, which Mr. Lydenberg has vainly endeavored to solve. He notes that the writer, who makes it clear that he was a personal friend of Marcgrave's and a contemporary of the principals in Count Maurice's expedition to Brasil, could not have been Manget himself, since he was not born until 1652 and Marcgrave died in 1644. With this understanding and to avoid multiplication of words, he will however be hereafter referred to as Manget.
- With regard to Count Maurice, the present writer can not do better than quote Swainson's encomium which is attested by all the other writers who speak of the Count, "It is almost inconceivable how this illustrious man, whose life, at this period, would appear to have been spent alternately in the camp and the council, could find leisure even to think of science, still less to have prosecuted it in his closet. Yet the versatility of his mind, and its power of abstraction, was so great that such was actually the fact. He not only patronized and assisted the labors of those whom he had engaged for this purpose, but actually worked himself in describing and drawing the various new animals of Brazil, even in the most arduous periods of his government."
- On the island of Antonio Vaez in the harbor of Recife, Count Maurice built after plans by Peter Post a vice-regal palace, Freiburg, in the suburb called Mauritia. This building had two towers which were visible six to seven leagues at sea and which served as beacons to the mariners (Nieuhoff). It was probably one of these which Marcgrave used as an observatory. This was in all probability the first astronomical observatory ever erected in the southern hemisphere and in the new world. And at the same time he received from Count Maurice a troop of soldiers, which accompanied him throughout those parts of Brazil where he explored, so that he was able to hunt for, capture, collect and dry wild beasts of all kinds, fishes, birds and plants: in all which, collected, preserved and displayed before Count Maurice as if they were alive (i. e., stuffed), he brought great delight to the Count and the highest praise to himself.(Manget.)
- This information was given to Manget by Colonellus of Mansfeld, the leader of these troops.
- It is a source of no small regret to the present writer that he is unable to give in connection with this sketch a portrait of Marcgrave. In none of the works listed in the bibliography at the end of this article is there such a portrait or reference to any. Mr. Lydenberg has kindly gone through the extensive list of portraits belonging to the New York Public Library, and has also searched several other lists (one containing the portraits of 30,000 Germans) without finding any. It seems probable that there is no portrait of Marcgrave extant.
- Driesen, De Crane and Van Kampen say that Marcgrave worked up four special charts of Brazil, and that Count Maurice after his return to Holland had them etched on copper and had many copies made. These must be. the maps which Manget says were common ornaments on the walls of the vestibules in the homes of the better class of Dutchmen. Later a second edition was printed, but as Margrave's name was omitted from this all credit was lost to him.
- The only one absolutely known to be missing is a paper on the geographical distribution of plants. This is stated on the authority of Driesen. Corroboratory is a statement by De Laet that he had sent to Marcgrave notes transcribed from Ximines, and specimens collected for him (De Laet) from the islands of America that Marcgrave might compare them with the plants of Brazil.
- It should be noted in passing that De Laet adds more than one hundred annotations to Marcgrave's descriptions of plants and animals. These largely consist of data drawn from Ximenes 's accounts of the plants and animals of New Spain.
- This dedication was written in Mauritia (Manget), and seemingly in anticipation of the untimely result of his journey to Africa.
- The Library of Congress possesses two copies of this rare work. One has the wood cuts plain, the other colored by hand. The writer's own copy has plain figures.
- The modern name of this toad-fish is not known to the present writer. Jordan and Evermann ("Fishes of North America," Vol. III., p. 2315) refer to "The Brazilian genus Marcgravia (cryptocentra). . .," which is possibly the fish above described.
- At Freiburg in Mauritia, Count Maurice had gardens in which large numbers of the plants of the country were set out, he also had cages in which the animals were kept, and fish ponds full both of salt and fresh water fishes. (Nieuhoff.)
- Lichtenstein comments on the characteristic half jocular notes added by Count Maurice, of which the following may be quoted. On the sheet containing the figure of the ant-eater, Tamandua guacu, the Count has written: "This is the great ant-eater, as large as # an otter. He sticks his tongue into a hole, the ants sit down on it, and then he draws it into his mouth. The tongue is about one half an ell long. . . . He can not run at all."
- For this transcript I am indebted to the courtesy of Dr. Perlbach, of the Royal Library of Berlin.
- See Fig. 3.
- This was probably written by Valenciennes, who made a special trip to Berlin in 1826 to inspect these paintings.
- See Fig. 4, the spotted sting-ray. Narinari, previously described.