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TO THE READER.
THIS work is designed to answer the twofold purpose of a Hand-book for the general visitors to the GALLERY OF ORGANIC REMAINS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM, and an Explanatory Catalogue for the scientific observer.
With this view the specimens in each Room are described in a separate chapter, and a ground-plan of the Cases, and a Synopsis of their contents, are given in the first part or section of each division, to serve as a guide-book for those whose time is limited, and are desirious of obtaining a general idea of the collection.
The palæontologist will, it is hoped, find all the information in these unpretending pages that can reasonably be expected within the prescribed limits of a work of this nature, which is divested as much as possible of technical language to render it acceptable to the unscientific reader, and intended to direct attention to the most important specimens, and invest them with an interest they would not otherwise present to persons unacquainted with this branch of natural knowledge.
My excellent and lamented friend, the late CHARLES KÖNIG, Esq., who for nearly half a century presided over this department of the National Collection, and whose scientific friendship I had the privilege of enjoying from my early years, looked forward with much pleasure to my completion of a task which I should never have attempted, had he not assured me that neither himself nor any other officer of the Museum would undertake it. His sudden death has deprived me of the gratification of inscribing my labours to one so capable of appreciating them, and I can now only offer this unavailing, but sincere tribute of respect to his memory.
In extenuation of any errors or omissions, I would beg to remind the Courteous Reader that the Author is unconnected with the British Museum, and that this volume, like its predecessors, has been composed during the brief and uncertain intervals of arduous professional duties.
DESCRIPTION OF THE FRONTISPIECE.
(Extracted from Mr. Gould's "Birds of Australia.")
"THE acquisition of a new species is always a matter of great interest; but when, as in the present instance, it is of one so nearly extinct as to be only known to us previously by its fossil remains, the interest becomes enhanced in the highest degree. It is well known that the existence of the celebrated Dodo is all but traditionary, a fate which, but for MR. WALTER MANTELL's fortunate acquisition of a living example, would probably have been shared by the present bird, the characters of which were first made known to us by PROFESSOR OWEN, from the fossil bones previously discovered and sent home by the talented explorer after whom it is named: those relics are now in the British Museum. (See p. 124.)
"That few living examples remain, is evident from the fact that the mounted specimen in DR. MANTELL's possession is the only one that has yet been seen: all the information respecting it that has been obtained is comprised in the account communicated by Dr. Mantell to the Zoological Society of London, and published in their 'Proceedings' for 1850. (See p. 126.)
"Upon a cursory view of this bird it might be taken for a gigantic kind of Porphyrio, but on examination of its structure it will be found generically distinct. It is allied to Porphyrio in the form of its bill, and in its general colouring, and to Tribonyx in the structure of its feet, while in the feebleness of its wings, and in the form of the tail, it differs from both. From personal observation of the habits of the two recent genera above named, I may venture to affirm that the habits and economy of the present bird more closely resemble those of the former than of the latter; that it is doubtless of a recluse and extremely shy disposition; that being deprived by the feeble structure of its wings of the power of flight, it was compelled to depend upon its swiftness of foot for the means of evading its natural enemies; and that, as the case with Tribonyx, a person may be in its vicinity for weeks without even catching a glimpse of it. From the thickness of its plumage and the great length of its back-feathers, we may infer that it affects low and humid situations, marshes, the banks of rivers, and the coverts of dripping ferns, so abundant in its native country; like Porphyrio, it doubtless enjoyed the power of swimming, but it would seem from the structure of the legs to be more terrestrial in its habits than the members of that genus. I have carefully compared the bill of this bird with that figured by Professor Owen under the name of Notornis Mantelli, and have little doubt that they are referable to one and the same species.
"Head, neck, and breast, upper part of the abdomen and flanks, purplish blue; back, rump, upper tail-coverts, lesser wing coverts, and tertiaries, dark olive green, tipped with verditer green; at the nape of the neck a band of rich blue separating the purplish blue of the neck, from the green of the body; wings rich b
deep blue, the greater coverts tipped with verditer green, forming crescentic bands when the wing is expanded; tail dark green; lower part of the abdomen, vent, and thighs, dull bluish black; under tail-coverts, white; bill and feet, bright red.
"Total length of the body, 26 inches; bill, from the gape to the tip, 21; from tip to posterior edge of the plate on the forehead, 3 inches; wing, 8; tail, 3}; tarsi, 3; middle toe, 3; nail, ; hind-toe, ; nail, .'
"I cannot conclude these remarks without bearing testimony to the very great importance of the results which have attended the researches of MR. WALTER MANTELL, in the various departments of science to which he has turned his attention, nor without expressing a hope that he may yet be enabled to obtain some particulars as to the history of this and the other remarkable birds of the country in which he is resident.'
Plan of the Work.-To ensure the permanent utility of this Hand-Book, a specific notation of the Cases has been adopted in the ground-plan of each Room; and to facilitate a reference to any particular cabinet or fossil, so far as the present arrangement of the Gallery of Organic Remains will permit, the letters and numbers affixed to the respective Cases are inserted between brackets, and placed after the letters and figures of the plan; for example, in page 11, letter A refers to the ground-plan, and [1, A, B, C,] are the numbers and letters painted on the Wall-case containing the fossil Alga, Fuci, &c.
Minerals. The description of the mineralogical collection is not within the scope of this volume; but for the convenience of the mineralogist who may not possess MR. KONIG's excellent Synopsis, a brief notice of the contents of the Table-cases is inserted.
Fossi Invertebrata.-Of this part of the collection, a very general description only is given, for the objects are too numerous, and too small, to be particularized in a hand-book of this nature. Several of the Table-cases of fossil shells are admirably arranged and named by MR. WOODWARD, and cannot fail to prove highly interesting to the Geologist, and instructive to the student in Conchology; to the latter I would commend, in the strongest terms, Mr. Woodward's "Manual of the Mollusca, or a Rudimentary Treatise on Recent and Fossil Shells," with numerous illustrations, 1 vol. price 2s. published by Weale, as incomparably the best and cheapest introduction to this branch of Natural History in the English language.
Models of Fossils.-Models of some of the most remarkable fossils in the National Collection (a list of which is published in the " Synopsis of the British Museum") may be purchased of the Formatore.
Casts of the teeth, and of several bones, of the Iguanodon (formerly in my possession) may be obtained of Professor Tennant, 149, Strand.
The plate accompanying this description represents the Notornis in two positions, of the natural size, and accurately coloured.
CHAP. I. Part 1, Synopsis of Room I. p. 7.-Part 2, Fossil Vegetables, p. 22.—
CHAP. II. Part 1, Synopsis of Room II. p. 75.-Part 2, Stelleridæ, p. 81.-
CHAP. III. Part 1, Synopsis of Room III. p. 136. - Part 2, Fossil Reptiles,
p. 147.-Part 3, Batrachians and Saurians, p. 160.-Part 4, Geology of the
S.E. of England, p. 203.-Part 5, The Iguanodon, p. 225.-Part 6, Wealden
Reptiles, p. 314.-Part 7, Plesiosauri, p. 339.—Part 8, Mammalia of Auvergne,
CHAP. IV. Part 1, Synopsis of Room IV. p. 361.—Part 2, Ichthyosauri, p. 367.—
Part 3, Fossil Ruminants, p. 389.-Part 4, Carnivora of the Caverns, p. 397.
-Part 5, Stonesfield Mammalia, p. 401.-Part 6, Fossil Shells, p. 406.
CHAP. V. Part 1, Synopsis of Room V. p. 407.—Part 2, Ganoid Fishes, p. 417.—
Part 3, Ctenoid, Cycloid, and Placoid Fishes, p. 440.-Part 4, Rhinoceros,