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By Sarah Sworder (Information Assistant)


The story behind Lithographiae Wirceburgensis and its accompanying objects is both comical and tragic.


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Johann Beringer (1667-1740) was a physician and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Wurzberg, Germany. He also collected natural curiosities and had a keen interest in the origins of fossils. Beringer was a victim of a calculated hoax designed to discredit him. The hoaxers succeeded in damaging not only Beringer’s reputation but also managed to destroy their own. Beringer employed three students to hunt for curiosities on his behalf. It was from Christian Zanger and brothers Niklaus and Valentin Hehn that Beringer came to acquire these ‘fake fossils’.

The hoaxers were two colleagues of Beringer: J. Ignats Roderick, a professor of geography and algebra at the University of Wurzburg, and the Honorouble Georg Von Eckhart, privy councillor and librarian to the Bishop’s Court and University. The reason Roderick and Eckhart devised the scheme was because Beringer was ‘so arrogant and despised them all’. It was via Beringer’s students that Roderick and Eckhart would ensure the safe delivery of the stones. Some of the fossils, carved out of limestone, were found by the Hehn brothers on Mount Eibelstadt, whilst others were given directly to Beringer by Zanger. Zanger had acquired these straight from Roderick who had carved them and then paid Zanger to polish them.


Beringer ‘wholly, publicly committed himself to the belief that fossils were merely the capricious fabrications of God, hidden in the earth by Him for some inscrutable purpose’, and as a result of this belief he went on to publish his book Lithographiae Wirceburgensis (1726).  Prior to the publication of the book the perpetrators of the hoax began to feel guilty, and attempted to sabotage the book’s publication by circulating rumours that the stones were fraudulent. Beringer dismissed these claims as he believed that Roderick and Eckhart were trying to rob him of his great discovery.


When you look at the fossils it is difficult to see how Beringer was so easily duped. The figures are of bizarre lizards, spiders with webs, even shooting stars and smiling amphibians. These were things that just do not seem possible to form so perfectly as fossils. Please see the photograph below of the casts held in The Natural History Museum Library to judge for yourself.


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Shortly after the publication of his book, Beringer discovered another so called fossil with his name carved into it. It suddenly struck him that it was all a hoax and he tried to buy back as many copies of his book as he could find. Beringer took the hoaxers to court in an attempt to restore his ‘lost honour’. The court ruled that the hoaxers Roderick and Zanger were to be banished from Wurzberg, and Eckhart lost his post and privileges of access to the archives of the Duchy. The Hehn brothers were pardoned from having any knowledge of the hoax. Beringer continued in his role at the University of Wurzberg and even went on to publish further books which received academic accreditation.


However, Beringer was devastated by the humiliation the stones had brought him, and he died penniless after continuing to buy up as many copies of Lithographiae Wirceburgensis as he possibly could.


Some of Beringer’s ‘Lying Stones’, as they became to be known, still exist today, and are housed at the University Museum, Oxford, as well as in Wurzburg.


References and further reading

Jahn, Melvin (1970), 'Beringer, Johann Bartholomaeus Adam', Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 2, New York, pp 15-16.

Mallot, John M (1982), 'Dr Beringer's fossils: a study in the evolution of scientific world view', Annals of Science, 39, London, pp 371-380

Pain, Stephani (2004), 'Histories: Johann Beringer and the magic stones', New Scientist, 25 December 2004, pp 74-75

Taylor, Paul (2004), 'Beringer's iconoliths: Palaeontological fraud in the early 18th century', The Linnean. 20, pp 21-31

From 21 January 2011 you can marvel at some of the most beautiful, historic artworks and modern images of nature held by the Museum Library in our newly renovated gallery called Images of Nature.
As a reminder, the Library will be closed to external visitors from the 24 December - 3 January (inclusive).  Happy holidays to one and all.

New books

Posted by Rita Dockery Dec 20, 2010
Here are the recently arrived additions to the Library collection. These books are now on display in the Main Reading Room and the Botany Reading Room (for all Botany  titles). See records for these titles and more in our library catalogue, any time day or night from wherever you live and/or work.

Anthropology  / Palaeontology

I e II  Simpósios sobre a Bacia do Araripe e Bacias Interiores do Nordeste : realizados  em junho de 1990 e novembro de 1997 : comunicações / editores, Luiz  marivando Barros, Plácido Cidade Nuvens, José Betimar melo  Filgueira.

Crato-CE : Tipogresso,  2001.


Das  verschwundene Meer [Fossilienwelt Weinviertel ; eine Publikation des  Naturhistorischen Museums in Wien in Kooperation mit der Geologischen  Bundesanstalt Wien] Mathias Harzhauser ; Wolfgang Sovis ; Andreas  Kroh

Wien  Naturhistorisches Museum 2009


The  transantarctic mountains : rocks, ice, meteorites and water / Gunter Faure and Teresa M  Mensing

London: Springer-Verlag,  2010.



Kleiner  Pflanzenführer für den paraguayischen Chaco = Una guía para plantas nativas del  Chaco Paraguayo / Hrsg.: Iniciativa para la  investigación y transferencia de tecnología agraria sostenible (INTTAS), Loma  Plata. Christine Ulmke ; Lily August. Fotogr.: Christine Ulmke  ...

Herborn :  Fachverl. Uniglobia, 2004.


Unrunde'y,  Schlorrekaktus, Pehen : una guía para plantas leñosas del  Chaco / Verena Friesen Ratzlaff. Rev.  Levi Hiebert Funk ... [Ed.: Iniciativa para la investigación y transferencia de  tecnología agraria sostenible (INTTAS), Loma  Plata].

Herborn ;  Fröndenberg : Fachverl. Uniglobia, 2004.


Plantas  medicinales de tres áreas silvestres protegidas y su zona de influencia en el  sureste de Paraguay / María Vera Jiménez ; edicion,  María Vera Jiménez ... [et al.].

Asunción, Paraguay : Fundación Moisés Bertoni,  para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, 2009.


Impressions  of nature : a history of nature printing /  Roderick  Cave.

London : British Library ; New York, NY : Mark Batty  Publisher ; London : Thames & Hudson [distributor],  2010.


Algues  de Roscoff / Susan Loiseaux-de Goër,  Marie-Claude Noailles.

Roscoff : Éd.  de la Station biologique de Roscoff, 2008 Cloître  impr.)




Checklist  of Ohio  butterflies : a field companion/report form / Parshall, David  K

[Columbus, Ohio] :  Ohio  Lepidopterists, 2009


Imenotteri  d'Italia : Sapygidae, Scoliidae, Methochidae, Mutiliidae, Bradynobaenidae  [Electronic Ressource] / Tassi, Franco

Torino : Museo Regionale di  Scienze Naturali and others, 2008


The  beetles/ Ming plus [Max  Barclay]

[China]  : Ming, 2010


International  Symposium on Zygaenidae XII, 5-9 May 2010, Hatay, Turkey : scientific programme and  abstracts / International  Symposium on Zygaenidae (12th : 5-9 May 2010 :  Hatay)

Hatay  : Mustafa  Kemal University,  2010


Big bugs  life-size  / George  Beccaloni

London : Natural History Museum, 2010


6th  International Conference on the Biology of Butterflies : program and abstracts / International Conference on the Biology of  Butterflies (6th ; 2010 ; University of  Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

Edmonton, Alberta : Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, 2010



Charles  Darwin [on the origin of species]

[Taipei, Taiwan : s.n.],  1988


Super  species : the creatures that will dominate the planet / Garry  Hamilton.

Richmond  Hill, Ont. : Firefly Books,  2010.


The  flexible phenotype : a body-centred integration of ecology, physiology, and  behaviour / Theunis Piersma, Jan A. van  Gils.

Oxford : Oxford University Press,  2010.


Photoperiodism  : the biological calendar / edited by Randy J. Nelson, David L.  Denlinger, David E. Somers.

Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press,  2010.


Wytham  Woods : Oxford's  ecological laboratory / editors, P.S. Savill ... [et  al.].

Oxford [England] : New York : Oxford University Press,  c2010.


Adobe  Photoshop CS5 for photographers : a professional image editor's guide to the  creative use of Photoshop for the Macintosh and PC / Martin  Evening.

Amsterdam ; Boston : Focal  Press/Elsevier, 2010.


Light :  science and magic : an introduction to photographic  lighting / Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, Paul  Fuqua.

Oxford : Focal,  2007.




The  dissection of vertebrates : a laboratory manual / Gerardo De  Iuliis.

Amsterdam : Academic Press,  2010.


Zhongguo  Chang Jiang San Xia dong wu da quan = Encyclopedia of animals in three gorges of  Yangtze River of China / Liu Xianxin zhu  bian.

Beijing : Ke xue chu ban she,  2010.


Upside  down world : early European impressions of Australia's curious  animals / Penny Olsen.

Canberra : National Library of  Australia,  2010.


Coral  reefs : biology, threats and restoration / Thomas B. Davin and  Anna P. Brannet, editors.

New  York : Nova Science Publishers,  2009.


Mammal  teeth : origin, evolution, and diversity / Peter S.  Ungar.

Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press,  2010.


Whales,  dolphins and porpoises / Mark  Carwardine.

London : Dorling Kindersley,  2000.


Zhong guo  hai yang bei lei tu jian / Zhang Suping.

Bei  jing : Hai yang chu ban she, 2008.



New additions

Posted by Rita Dockery Dec 13, 2010

New  books added to the Library  collection


Please find below a list of  this week’s recently arrived additions to the Library collection. These books are now on display in  the Main Reading Room, Botany Reading Room (for all Botany titles) and Tring  (for all Ornithology titles).

Anthropology  / Palaeontology

Prehistory  of Sri Lanka: ancient history  of Sri Lanka, Indian  subcontinent, history of Sri  Lanka/ edited by Lambert M.  Surhone, Mariam T. Tennoe, Susan F. Henssonow

Betascript  Publishing, 2010.

How  humans evolved / Robert Boyd and Joan B  Silk

W. W. Norton  & Co, 2009

Cro-Magnon  : how the Ice Age gave birth to the first modern humans / Brian  Fagan.

New  York : Bloomsbury  Press, 2010.

Biodiversity  of fossils in amber from the major world deposits / edited by David  Penney.

Manchester : Siri Scientific  Press, 2010.

Dinosaur  sex / Michael  Brookfield.

London, England : Janus Pub.  Co., 2008.


Biology  of lichens : symbiosis, ecology, environmental monitoring, systematics and cyber  applications : selected papers related in part to the IAL 6 Symposium,  Asilomar, California 2008 / editors Thomas H. Nash ...  [et al.].

Stuttgart : Cramer in der  Gebr.-Borntraeger-Verl.-Buchh, 2010.

The  family Eriocaulaceae in India / R. Ansari,  N.P. Balakrishnan.

Rev.  ed.

Dehra  Dun : Bishen  Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, 2009.

Seasearch  Guide to seaweeds of Britain and Ireland / Francis StP. D. Bunker,  Juliet A. Brodie, Christine A. Maggs and Anne R.  Bunker

Ross-on-Wye :  Marine Conservation Society, 2010.

Art  forms in the plant world : 120 full-page photographs / Karl Blossfeldt ; with an  introduction by Karl Nierendorf.

New  York : Dover Publications,  1985.

Natural  art forms : 120 classic photographs / Karl  Blossfeldt.

Mineola, N.Y. : Dover Publications,  1998.



Minimorum  animalium theatrum / Carotti, Giovanni

Trento : Temi,  2010

Spiders  of New  Zealand : annotated family key & species  list / Paquin,  Pierre

Lincoln, N.Z. :  Manaaki Whenua Press , 2010

A review  of Culicoides subgenus <Avaritia> species (Insecta, Diptera,  Ceratopogonidae), vectors of viruses of sheep, cattle and horses, with  particular reference to <Culicoides imicola> in Europe and the Mediterranean  region / Boorman, John

London : Natural History Museum

Parasitic  ichneumonids on woodborers in China (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae) / Sheng,  Maoling

Beijing : Science Press,  2010

Lepidoptera  of Nepal / Colin  Smith

Kathmandu : Himalayan Nature,  2010

Handbook  on butterflies of Himachal Pradesh / G.S. Arora, H.S.  Mehta, V.K. Walia


Kolkata :  Zoological Survey of India,  2009


Evolution  in action : case studies in adaptive radiation, speciation and the origin of  biodiversity / Matthias Glaubrecht, editor ; in  cooperation with Harald Schneider.

Heidelberg ; New York : Springer,  c2010.

The book  of nature : the natural heritage according to UNESCO.

München, Germany : Monaco  Books, c2009.

Science  exhibitions : communication and evaluation / [edited by]  Anastasia Filippoupoliti.

Edinburgh : MuseumsEtc.,  2010.

Natural  selection and beyond : the intellectual legacy of Alfred Russel  Wallace / edited by Charles H. Smith and  George  Beccaloni.

Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press,  2010.

Doctor by  nature : JonathanCouch, surgeon of Polperro / Jeremy Rowett  Johns.

Clifton-upon-Teme, Worcestershire :  Polperro Heritage Press, 2010.



Sistema  "Planeta Zemlia" : 300 [trista] let so dnia rozhdeniia M. V. Lomonosova, 1711 –  2011

Moskva : URSS ;  [LENAND], 2010


Ornithology  (Tring)

Birds of  Ceredigion / Hywel Roderick, Peter Davis ; photographic editor: Michael  Hayward.

[Bridgend] :  Olga Roderick and Peter Davis, 2010.

Ecology  of the birds of Hong Kong / contributors, John A. Allcock ... [et al.] ;  editors, Captain, L.C. Wong, Vicky, W.Y. Lam, Gary, W.J.  Ades.

Hong  Kong : Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden,  [2009]

Field  guide to the birds of Ghana / by Nik Borrow, Ron  Demey.

London : Christopher Helm,  2010.

Handbook  of the birds of the world. Volume 15, Weavers to New  World Warblers / [edited by] Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott,  David Christie ; [writers]: Vladimir Arkhipov ... [et al.] ; colour plates by  Norman Arlott [et al.].

Barcelona : Lynx Edicions,  c2010.

The  Oxford dodo: the sad story of the ungainly bird  that became an Oxford icon / text by Jane  Pickering, with additions by Keith Thomson and Georgina  Ferry

Oxford: Oxford University Museum of Natural History,  2010.

Reed and  bush warblers / by Peter Kennerley and David Pearson.  illustrated by Brian Small

London : Christopher Helm,  2010.

Safari  sketchbook : a bird painter's African odyssey / Martin  Woodcock.

Wiveton : Esker  Press,  2010.




Manual of  diagnostic tests and vaccines for terrestrial animals : mammals, birds and  bees / World Organisation for Animal  Health.

Paris : Office  international des épizooties, 2004.

Local  mammals / Marion L. M.  Bryce

Long Eaton :  Long Eaton Natural History Society, 2010.

The book  of shells / by Jerry Harasewych, Fabio  Moretzsohn.

London : A. & C. Black,  2010.

Structures  and organelles in pathogenic protists / editor: Wanderley  de Souza

Heidelberg : Springer,  2010

Sand  Lizard and Natterjack Toad Recovery Project 2007-2009 / Herpetological  Conservation Trust ; nominated officer : E.A. Howe

Bangor : Countryside Council  for Wales,  2009.


Preparation is in full swing for a new travelling exhibition.


The Scott Exhibition opens first in Sydney's Australian National Maritime Museum in 17 June - 23 October 2011, it comes to the Natural History Museum during 14 January - 2 September 2012, then moves to the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand in 16 November 2012 - 30 June 2013.


For more information visit the NHM website


The Library is often used as the setting for interviews and this time it was the turn of Dr Max Jones Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester. Such footage will form part of the exhibition.


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New additions

Posted by Rita Dockery Dec 8, 2010

New books added to the Library collection


These books are now on display in the Main Reading Room and the Botany Reading Room (for all Botany titles).  Please let us know if you would like to make an appointment to see these or any other items.  We might also be able to help you plan your natural history research.


Anthropology / Palaeontology

Catalogue of the type fossils in the Woodwardian Museum Cambridge / Henry Woods.
Cambridge : University Press, 2010.


Evolution of earth and its climate : birth, life and death or earth / O. G. Sorokhtin. G. V. Chilingarian, and  N. O. Sorokhtin
Elsevier, 2010.


Geoscience data and collections : national resources in peril / Committee on the Preservation of Geoscience Data and Collections, Committee on Earth Resources, Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Research Council of the National Academies.
Washington, D.C. : National Academies Press, 2002.


The human evolution coloring book / by Adrienne L. Zihlman ; principal illustrations by Carla J. Simmons.
New York : HarperResource, 2000.


Smithsonian intimate guide to human origins / Carl Zimmer.
[Washington, D.C.] : Smithsonian Books ; New York, NY : Collins, 2005.


The 10,000 year explosion : how civilizatin accelerated human evolution / Gregory Cochran and  Henry Harpending.
New York : BasicBooks ; London : Perseus Running [distributor], 2010.




Flora of tropical East Africa. Cyperaceae / edited by H.J. Beentje and S.A. Ghazanfar.
Richmond : Published on behalf of the East African governments by Royal Botanic Gardens, 2010.


Flore du Gabon. Vol. 41, Anthericaceae, Burmanniaceae, Colchiceae, Crassulaceae, Dipterocarpaceae, Lemnaceae, Pittosporaceae, Rosaceae, Ternstroemiaceae, Thismiaceae, Triuridaceae / comité de réd.: Marc S. M. Sosef ... [et al.].
Weikersheim : Margraf Publishers, 2010.


Stereum s.l. / Arthur L. Welden.
Bronx, NY : Published for the Organization for Flora Neotropica by the New York Botanical Garden Press, 2010.


The flora of Loton Deer Park : an annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Loton Deer Park, based on fieldwork conducted by the Biodiversity Training Project, with the Shropshire Botanical Society in 2010 / by Mark Duffell
[Shropshire] : Shropshire Botanical Society, 2010.


Analyzing lichen indicator data in the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program / Susan Will-Wolf.
Portland, OR : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, [2010]




Fire ecology in Rocky Mountain landscapes / William L. Baker.
Washington, DC : Island Press, c2009.


All flesh is grass : plant-animal interrelationships / edited by Joseph Seckbach and Zvy Dubinsky
Dordrecht ; London : Springer, 2011 [i.e. 2010]


Aspectos conceptuales, análisis numérico, monitoreo y publicación de datos sobre biodiversidad / Antonio Mijail Pérez.
Managua : Gobierno de la República de Nicaragua, Ministerio del Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales, 2004.


An audit of alien species in Scotland / D. Welch ... [et al.]
Battleby, Perth : Scottish Natural Heritage, 2001.


Atlas of the deep-water seabed : Ireland / Boris Dorschel ... [et al.].
Dordrecht [etc.] : Springer, cop. 2010.


Darwin in Galápagos : footsteps to a new world / K. Thalia Grant and Gregory B. Estes.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c2009.




Amber: tears of the gods / Neil D. L. Clark
Dunedin Academic Press Ltd, 2010.


Mineral Observer : mineral news from Russia and beyond / edited by Boris Z. Kantor ....[et al.]
Moscow : Ocean Pictures Ltd, 2010.




Le tegnùe dell'Alto Adriatico : valorizzazione della risorsa marina attraverso lo studio di aree di pregio ambientale / Elisa Andreoli ... [et al.]
Venezia : Fondazione Musei Civici Venezia ; Padova : ARPAV, 2010.


Encyclopedia of flora and fauna of Bangladesh, Vol. 27. Mammals / Zia Uddin Ahmed (Ed)
Nimtali : Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, 2009


Protecting marine mammals / Marielle de Vries, editor.
New York : Nova Science, 2010.


Compendium of bivalves / Markus Huber
Hackenheim : ConchBooks, 2010.


Australian land snails. Volume 1, A field guide to eastern Australian species / John Stanisic ... [et al.]
Mauritius : Bioculture Press for the Australian Museum, 2010.


Pictorial guide to the amphibians of North East India / Rosamma Mathew and Nibedita Sen ; edited by the Director, Zoological Survey of India.
Kolkata : Zoological Survey of India, 2010.


The Library will be closed to visitors from 24th December 2010 - 3rd January 2011 (inclusive).


We will reopen as usual on Tuesday 4th January 2011.


May we take this opportunity to wish our readers a Happy Christmas and New Year.


We look forward to seeing you in 2011.



Erythacus rubecula, European robin by Henry Leonard Meyer (Image no. 041207)