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Museum; for this, as I left it, I am answerable, and to Dr. Jameson's notes upon it I shall briefly reply, in the order of his remarks.
Mammalia. Dr. Jameson states that "many of the specimens of Mammalia are exceedingly good; but others, from their bad condition, require to be replaced as soon as possible." I believe the good specimens are for the most part those procured and set up either by myself or under my superintendence. The bad ones are what were in the Museum before I took charge, and were in a most miserable state, as may be seen from my first annual Report. I left them in the Museum only till better could be procured, on the principle that a bad specimen is better than none.
Birds. Of the 600 birds mentioned by Dr. Jameson, about 360 were procured and prepared by my exertions-many of them shot by myself; of the rest I err but little if I say, the greater part would never have reached the Society's Museum, if I had not taken measures, hereafter to be mentioned, for their collection. Of those prepared in my time I have copious notes, and the greater portion of a catalogue made, which is enriched by observations on the manners and habits of the Indian birds by Mr. C. W. Smith. This I did intend to finish, so soon as I could get a little respite from the incessant occupation incidental to the wandering and anxious life I have led since I left Calcutta, would allow; and I shall be happy to do so as soon as possible, if the Society wish it. In the enumeration of new and rare specimens Dr. Jameson omits the newest and rarest of them all, viz. the Halcyon amauropterus, mihi, which I discovered, and the Eurimrynchus griseus, of which but one other specimen is known.†
I say as I left it, because the Editors of the Journal in a note appended to Dr. Jameson's Report say, that since his departure, short as the time has been, the minerals he arranged have been "swept into chaos by the unguarded hands of Assistants." As nearly two years have elapsed since I was Curator, during which the Museum had been in charge of a Committee and two Curators before Dr. Jameson; surely some allowance might have been made for Dr. Jameson's "predecessors" on the same score; especially as from the utter failure of the Committee to fulfil the office properly, the whole management was probably left in their time to the “unguarded hands of Assistants" only. I think the excuse might have been made for us; not I trust that I need it, but in common fairness.
As every one with any pretensions to ornithological knowledge is acquainted with the rareness of this bird, I fear from Dr. Jameson's silence, it has been lost to, or abstracted from, the Museum. I hope the Secretaries will inquire into this; for it is unquestionably the most valuable ornithological specimen we have. (1)
(1) Dr. Pearson's note.-We have made the suggested inquiry of Dr. M'Clelland,
"The Museum is at present in such confusion owing to the repairs of the house, that
Osteology-The osteological department is well spoken of by Dr. Jameson. The skeletons he praises were nearly, if not quite, all procured and articulated under my directions. And those who know by actual practice, the trouble of preparing bones of a skeleton; and afterwards the manual labour, and anatomical and mechanical skill requisite to articulate them, will not be disposed to censure me, or withhold their praise from my industrious and willing assistant M. Bouchez; for the value of who's services I am pleased at having another opportunity of recording my thanks.
Ichthyological, Erpetological, Conchological, &c. Departments.-As Dr. Jameson says nothing about these, I shall follow his example, except to observe, that the want of bottles, and means to arrange the specimens, placed them in nearly the same condition as that of the minerals; that I procured most of them; the land and fresh water shells of India in particular were chiefly from my own collection, and so were the insects, except a few presented by Dr. M'Clelland, and one or two other individuals, and some from Chirra Poonjee and Sylhet, which I purchased.
With regard to Dr. Jameson's suggestions-I have to observe, that fitting up the bird-cases with shelves, is doubtless an alteration, but no improvement upon the plan I adopted. Shelves in high cases, like the Society's, obstruct the view of the specimens and darken the cases; and for these reasons I removed them. By my plan the specimens could be systematically arranged, and were so; and in my opinion it admitted of far more being placed in a given space than the shelving system. As to the classification of the birds, I followed that of Vigors, as given in the Zoological Journals, and Stephens' and Shaw's Zoology as being simple, easy of access to common readers, and highly approved of by eminent zoologists. No doubt it has faults, but it is the system (perhaps I should say method) best adapted to a Museum where the majority of members are not professed ornithologists; and to change it for that of Cuvier, the chief merit of which is being part of a general systematic work, is I submit, another instance of an alteration being no improvement.
Dr. Jameson next suggests that the cases should be made "air tight by lining the edges of the doors with shamois leather, poisoned with arsenic." I fully agree with him that specimens of Natural History can be preserved here, and I will go further than he does, and say, they can be preserved here not only almost, but quite as well as they can be in Europe; but not by the means he points out. As for making a case air-tight, the thing is impossible; but it may be made tight enough to become continually damp within a rather curious mode of preserving the specimens. Years
ago I pointed out to the Society, and practised, with complete success, the plan I suggested of keeping the cases open as much as possible, particularly in fine weather. When specimens are well aired, and the pernicious practice of shutting them up in tight cases is abandoned, they can be kept as well in Bengal as in England. I had some in my private collections which I prepared seven years before, and in so perfect a state as not to have lost a feather;* and I venture to assert that no one while the Museum was under my charge ever saw one of the specimens prepared from fresh birds, either in a decayed or damaged state. fact, nothing will keep in a damp climate unless frequently aired, whether animal or vegetable specimens, stationery or linen, silks or satins, pack them in tin and air-tight boxes how we may,—a fact which will be borne testimony to by every old lady in Bengal.
Again with regard to Dr. Jameson's "desiderata ;"—I regret that neither he himself, nor any of his friends, consulted the Journal, or inquired what had been done by those predecessors he assumes to be so worthy of censure. Had he done so, he would have found, that I did "get up under the auspices of the Society" the instructions or "memorial" as he terms it, (which forms the first of his list of "desiderata") giving brief instructions how to collect, prepare, and pack objects of Natural History; and that it was extensively circulated both by Mr. Prinsep and myself. This memorandum, moreover, was followed by a very long paper of no less than ten closely printed pages in the number of August 1835, of the Journal of the Asiatic Society; in which were detailed the plans followed by the best taxidermists in Europe, and the result of my own experience of eight years in this country. A further experience of four years has given me but little to add; so I think the Society cannot do better than re-print and circulate that paper. I shall be happy to make a few alterations in, and additions to it, and Dr. Jameson will perhaps favour us with his remarks, or some account of such methods as may have been recently brought into notice in Europe; while Dr. M'Clelland can append a list of specimens required by the Society. When my paper was written every thing was welcome, and consequently no such list appended. These papers were eminently successful; great numbers of specimens having been sent in soon after their having been circulated: probably copies of the shorter one are still in the Secretary's office.
For this see the Felis kutas, mihi, in the Society's Museum, which I mounted in December 1831; and when I left Calcutta in 1837, nearly six years afterwards, its preservation was so perfect, that though a heavy specimen, I lifted it up by the hair of the back without injury. I need scarcely say it had never been shut up in an air
I believe I have now replied to the zoological part of Dr. Jameson's observations, and shewn-First, that the censure he bestows does not belong to me; secondly, that those parts of the Museum he praises were especially under my care; and, thirdly, that his suggestions for the improvement of the zoological department of the Museum are either pernicious, or have been anticipated years ago. I shall now proceed to state what I did while I held the office of Curator, so that he, or any body else who feels disposed to the work, may deal out upon me the censure he may consider me to merit; for, as I wish not to usurp credit which does not belong to me, I am not any longer inclined to be under imputations of misconduct and neglect, for the errors and omissions of others.
I think it was so early as the year 1830 that I proposed to Sir E. Ryan, then, as now, the most disinterested lover of science in the Society, the establishment of a Museum of Natural History for the Asiatic Society. I was at that time at Midnapore, and the suggestion, though favoured with his support, was too much in advance of the feelings of the day, almost exclusively confined to the love of Oriental literature. On removing to Calcutta in 1832, I proposed the matter to the Society at large; but nothing could be done till July 1833, when I was appointed, much against my will, honorary Curator of the Museum of Natural History. This I nominally held till March 1835, and it was but nominally, to please Mr. Prinsep, and against my own wishes and judgment; for no assistance was given me. I could but ill afford to keep up additional expenses to convey me to the Museum; and more than all, I felt that my circumstances were then such as not to warrant my so giving up time, which I ought to employ to the benefit of my family; therefore I resigned the situation, and proposed, that a person properly qualified should be sent for from Europe, to fill it. The subject was hereupon referred to the Committee of Papers (as it is reported in the Journal of the Asiatic Society, but as I think, to a SubCommittee) for the purpose of considering the question. This Committee consulted Baron Hugel, and the majority agreed that for various reasons, stated in their report, it would be better to employ a Curator already in the country, whose services could be procured at less cost, and devote part of the sum proposed, for the contingent expenses. To this the Society agreed, and I was elected Curator in April 1835, as an experiment for one year.
When I took charge of the Museum no order nor arrangement had been observed; specimens of the arts and sciences of India, and the neighboring countries, of their religion and manufactures, antique and modern, were mixed with those of Natural History in abundant
confusion. The cases were dirty, and falling to pieces, with wooden doors; the rooms damp; and the specimens decaying. All this was reduced to order. In the words of my first annual report-" The first step was to divide the Museum into two distinct parts; one consisting of the works of art; the other, of the productions of nature. The numerous valuable specimens of the former being lost in the rooms below, were removed into the entrance hall, staircase, and gallery, where they now are, and where they are seen, as we all know, to the greatest advantage; and their removal allowed of the apartments they occupied being entirely devoted to the Natural History portion of the Museum.
"On examination, the specimens of Natural History were found, for the most part, in a very neglected state. In Osteology they were numerous, and some of these very valuable; but many were more or less mutilated, and the teeth of the skulls lost, while no catalogue, nor even memorandum of the greater portion could be found. The first care was to remedy this: the broken specimens were repaired, so far as they could be repaired; and a catalogue was made which includes every thing concerning them that can be gleaned from the Researches and other quarters, whether as to the specimens themselves, or the names of the donors. In making this catalogue some difficulty was experienced from the want of any notices of the specimens, and from there being no objects of comparison, by which to discover the species of an animal, of which we had perhaps but a horn, or a single bone.
"While this was going on, attention was also directed to the formation of a cabinet of reference to compare the fossil remains in which the Museum is so rich with the living congeners of the animals to which they belonged. This is in its very nature a tedious and laborious work; but already there have been articulated, and set up, skeletons of a Monkey, Weasel, Cat, Rat, Musk-deer, Horse, Parrot, and Tortoise. The Rhinoceros, which was before but badly put together, has been made the most of that its condition would allow; and an Elephant's skeleton,* and those of another Horse and Tortoise are being prepared. As this branch of the Museum is of the greatest importance, I am anxious to render it as complete as possible; and with this view have written to various individuals likely to further our object, who have promised the bones of the Camel, wild Buffalo, large Deer of various kinds, the large Bullock of Upper India, the Tapir, and the Alligator; and we may expect soon to receive them."
But for full information I beg to refer to the report, which was pub
• This was afterwards found unfit for articulation, and I procured another.