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The brand new glossy Winter 2012 edition of the Museum's magazine Evolve is now available to buy.


The Library & Archives collections and staff feature in at least three articles!



The Birds of America - In October 2011 the NHM published a reproduction of John James Audubon's huge work The Birds of America. Learn more about this record breaking book and its author.



Hoping great things.... the search for early humans - With the 100th anniversary approaching, Karolyn Shindler has been researching the collections relating to the Piltdown Man and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward. This is the first of four forthcoming articles.







Images of Nature: The First Fleet collection - To coincide with the February 2012 change of theme for the Images of Nature art gallery, 18th century Australian artwork, this article is all about the theme, the artists and the artwork.


Our Special Collections Librarian, Lisa Di Tommaso has written a publication The Art of the First Fleet all about the unqiue First Fleet artwork collections held in the NHM Library & Archives. Available now from the NHM bookshop.


The Library catalogue is available online at Library Catalogue

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460





Deconstructing Olduvai : a taphonomic study of the Bed 1 sites/by Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, Rebeca Barba Egido and Charles P. Egeland
Dordrecht, Netherlands : Springer, c2007.
A 2 q DOM

The evolution of hominin diets : integrating approaches to the study of Palaeolithic subsistence /edited by Jean-Jacques Hublin and Michael P. Richards.
[Dordrecht] : Springer, c2009.
A 6 q HUB

The cave of Fontéchevade : recent excavations and their paleoanthropological implications / Philip G. Chase ... [et al.].
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2009.
A 6 q CAV

The faunas of Hayonim Cave, Israel : a 200,000-year record of Paleolithic diet, demography, and society / Mary C. Stiner ; with contributions by Ofer Bar-Yosef …[et al.]
Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 2005.
A 2 q STI


The geologic evolution of Saudi Arabia : a voyage through space and time / David Grainger
Jeddah : Saudi Geological Survey, 2007.
P 73Da q GRA





Plant diversity of Lakshadweep Islands / C. Sudhakar Reddy, P.S. Roy.
Dehra Dun, India : Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, 2011.
581.9(54) SUD

Application of diatom biofacies in reconstructing the evolution of sedimentary basins : records from the southern Baltic Sea differentiated by the extent of the Holocene marine transgressions and human impact / by Malgorzata Witak.
Ruggell, Liechtenstein : A.R.G. Gantner Verlag, 2010.

Checklist of lichenized and lichenicolous fungi from Colombia / H.J.M. Sipman, W. Hekking & J. Aguirre-C.
Bogotá, D.C. : Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2008.

Zhongguo dou lan shu zhi wu = The genus Paphiopedilum in China / Liu Zhongjian ... [et al.] zhu.
Beijing : Ke xue chu ban she, 2009.
581.9(51) LIU Q

Die Moose des Nationalparks Harz eine kommentierte Artenliste / von Monika Koperski unter Mitarb. von Markus Preu*ing ... [et al.]
Wernigerode Nationalparkverwaltung Harz 2011.





Bumblebees : indispensable guide to identification, ecology and study of bumblebees / Oliver E. PrÅ·s-Jones & Sarah A. Corbet
3rd ed. Exeter : Pelagic Publishing, 2011.
E 72A o C

A treatise on the western hemisphere Caraboidea (Coleoptera) : their classification, distributions, and ways of life. Vol. 3, Carabidae - Loxomeriformes, Melaeniformes / Terry l. Erwin
Sofia ; Moscow : Pensoft, 2011

Ground beetles (Carabidae) of Greece / edited by Erik Arndt ... [et al.]
Sofia ; Moscow : Pensoft, 2011





Life stories / David Attenborough.
London : Collins, 2009.
1 o ATT


Biodiversity hotspots : distribution and protection of conservation priority areas / Frank E. Zachos, Jan Christian Habel, editors.
Heidelberg ; New York : Springer, c2011.
L 65A o BIO


Pedro Páez's History of Ethiopia, 1622. Volume 1 & 2 / edited by Isabel Boavida, Hervé Pennec and Manuel João Ramos ; translated by Christopher Tribe.
Farnham : Ashgate, 2011.
Hakluyt Society. Third series
L 70 o HAK


A passion for nature : the life of John Muir / Donald Worster.
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2011.
L 96A o MUI


Edward Wilson's Antarctic notebooks / D.M. Wilson & C.J. Wilson
Cheltenham : Reardon, 2011.
L 96A q WIL






Layered silicates excluding micas and clay minerals / W.A. Deer, R.A. Howie, J. Zussman.
London : Geological Society, c2009.
M 549(02) DEE




Monstrous fishes and the Mead-Dark Sea : whaling in the medieval North Atlantic / by Vicki Ellen Szabo
Leiden : Brill, 2008.
Z 17I o SZA

The anatomy and physiology of the mammalian larynx / D.F.N. Harrison.
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Ungulate taxonomy / Colin Groves and Peter Grubb.
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.

Hunters in the trees : a natural history of arboreal snakes / Richard Sajdak.
Malabar: Krieger, 2010.

Histoire naturelle : ou, Exposition des morceaux, les mieux choisis pour servir à l'étude de la minéralogie et de la cristallographie           

Swebach Desfontaines, François Louis fl. 1769




This exquisite collection of watercolour drawings on paper is the result of Francious Louis Swebach Desfontaines own project.  His aim was to produce a publication of ten colour plates each depicting sixteen mineral  specimens set into boxwork cabinets.


The collection of plates held in the Natural History Museum Library, were to be used in Swebach's completed publication.  The collection contains original drawings for 10 prints with alternative versions. These drawings are accompanied by one page of text.  This prospectus for the proposed publication is the only copy which survives today.  The final project never came to fruition as Swebach noted at the close of his introduction, "the revolution prevented the publication of this work".


The drawings show Swebach's excellent ability to draw minerals on paper with meticulous accuracy and attention to detail.  Some plates are original drawings whilst others are engravings, however it is difficult to determine one from the other as an elaborate border was painted round each of them.  All are hand coloured.  To enhance the colour of some of the drawings Swebach has used shavings from the actual minerals




Some of the drawings appear to be direct replicas of those used in the famous book by Jean Fabien Gautier D'Agoty: Histoire Naturelle Règne Minéral (1781).  This is of little surprise as Swebach worked in the Gautier D'Agoty studio in Paris.  He was employed to carry on the work of D'Agoty on Histoire Naturelle Règne Minéral after his death.  In 1776 Gautier d'Agoty embarked on publishing a volume of the mineral kingdom; Histoire Naturelle Règne Minéral.  This publication was one of the first to be illustrated with printed colours. It consisted of a collection of colour printed plates with an explanatory text written by Jean Baptiste Louis Romé de l'Isle (1736-1790), the eminent crystallographer. The book was available by subscription, and was to be published in eight or ten instalments or 'decades'. Prior to his death, Gautier d'Agoty had completed just three of these 'decades'. Swebach then completed another four decades for Mme Gautier d'Agoty. The last, the seventh, is so rare that only two copies are known.


Swebach was an acquaintance of Jean Baptiste Louis Romé de l'Isle, and had assisted him in a project to make terracotta crystal models.  It is thought Romé de l'Isle may have recommended Swebach to Mme Gautier d'Agoty. 


What was unique about Swebachs publication compared to D'Agoty's was that Swebach hand coloured all his plates, rather than using colour printing.


Swebach was a self taught artist, sculptor, engraver, painter and mineralogist.  Little of his background is known.  He was born in Toul, France in the later half of the eighteenth century.  By 1780 he had moved to Paris, working as an engraver.


It is not known what happened to Swebach during the French Revolution.  It is a mystery whether or not Swebach became a victim of the revolutionary executions.  Nothing is known of him after 1792. 




The Library catalogue is available online at Library Catalogue

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460





L'Europe des derniers chasseurs : Épipaléolithique et Mésolithique / édité par André Thévenin ; sous la direction scientifique de Pierre Bintz.
Paris : Éditions du CTHS, 1999
A 3 q UNI

The comparative approach in evolutionary anthropology and biology / Charles L. Nunn
Chicago ; London : University of Chicago Press, 2011
A 1 o NUN

British Lower Palaeolithic : stones in contention / John McNabb
London ; New York : Routledge, 2007
A 3 o MCN


Transylvanian dinosaurs / David B. Weishampel and Coralia-Maria Jianu
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011
P 20e o WEI

Fossils in amber : remarkable snapshots of prehistoric forest life / David Penney & David I. Green ; edited by Yuri M. Marusik
Manchester : Siri Scientific Press, c2011
P 26 o PEN

Dinosaurs of eastern Iberia / edited by Àngel Galobart, Maite Suñer, and Begoña Poza ; translated by Albert Prieto-Márquez
Bloomington: Indiana University Press ; [Barcelona] : Published in association with Institut Català Paleontologia, c2011.
P 20e o DIN





Diatoms of Europe : Diatoms of the European inland waters and comparable habitats. Volume 6, Eunotia and some related genera / ed. by Horst Lange-Bertalot.
ll : Gantner, 2011.
DIATOMS 582.261(4) KRA

The lichens of Ireland : an introductory guide / Paul Whelan.
Cork : Collins, 2011.

Plants and habitats of European cities / editors : John G. Kelcey and Norbert Müller
[Dordrecht] : Springer Verlag 2009.

Eesti puudel kasvavad suursamblikud = epiphytic macrolichens of Estonia = •epifitnye makrolishainiki •Estonii / Tiina Randlane ... [et al.].
Tartu : Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus, 2011.

Taxonomic revision of three hundred Indian subcontinental Pteridophytes with a revised census-list : a new picture of fern-taxonomy and nomenclature in the Indian subcontinent / C.R. Fraser-Jenkins.
Dehra Dun : Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, 2008.
FERNS 582.35(54) FRA

Sesame : the genus Sesamum / edited by Dorothea Bedigian.
Boca Raton, FL : CRC Press, 2011.
581.48 BED Q





Styles of reasoning in the British life sciences : shared assumptions, 1820-1858 / by James Elwick.
London ; Brookfield, Vt. : Pickering & Chatto, 2007
L 3 o ELW

Species and communities in extreme environments : festschrift towards the 75th anniversary and a laudatio in honour of academician Yuri Ivanovich Chernov / edited by S.I. Golovatch ... [et al.].
Sofia : Pensoft ; Moscow : KMK Scientific Press, 2009.
L 7 o SPE

Evolution : the history of an idea / Peter J. Bowler.
3rd ed.  Berkeley : University of California Press, c2003.
L 9D o BOW

The diversity of life in African freshwaters : underwater, under threat : and analysis of the status and distribution of freshwater species throughout mainland Africa / edited by William Darwall ... [et al.].
Gland, Switzerland : IUCN, c2011.
L 74 q DIV

A student's guide to the seashore / J. D. Fish and S. Fish
3rd ed. New York : Cambridge University Press, c2011.
L 87 o FIS






Statistical Methods in Analytical Chemistry (Chemical Analysis: A Series of Monographs on Analytical Chemistry and Its Applications) / Peter C. Meier and Richard E. Zund
New York ; Chichester : Wiley, 2000
M 543 MEI




Donkey / Jill Bough.
London : Reaktion Books, 2011.
Z 3A o BOU

Pig / Brett Mizelle.
London : Reaktion Books, 2011.
Z 3A o MIZ

Mammals of Indiana : a field guide / John O. Whitaker, Jr.
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2010.

Nudibranchs encyclopedia : catalogue of Asia/Indo-Pacific sea slugs / Neville Coleman.
Springwood : Neville Coleman's Underwater Geographic Pty Ltd., 2008

Anfibios y reptiles de la Península Ibérica, Baleares y Canarias / Albert Masó, Manuel Pijoan ; fotografías de Albert Masó ... [et al.].
Barcelona : Omega, 2011.

A field guide to the frogs of Borneo / Robert F. Inger and Robert B. Stuebing ; photographs by R.B. Stuebing ... [et al.] ; illustrations by Tan Fui Lian.
Kota Kinabalu : Natural History Publications (Borneo), 2005.

Library & Archives will be closed to external visitors every Monday until Autumn 2012 due to a major curation project.


We will remain open to the public 4 days a week (Tuesday-Friday) during this period. Apologies for any inconvenience.


For more information about visiting the Library & Archives please go to our web page.

"He that enlarges his curiosity after the works of nature, demonstrably multiplies the inlets to happiness"

This is the opening phrase of the preface to the third, 1799, edition of The Naturalist's and traveller's companion; by John Coakley Lettsom. M.D; where he defines the ultimate purpose of his book. A concise manual that has been somehow forgotten, it was a great achievement at it's time.

The first edition was published in London in 1772 by George Pearch and it seems to have sold out quickly as a second edition, corrected and enlarged followed in 1774, this time published by E & C Dilly also in London.

This is probably the first ever concise, modern, systematic and scientific manual on the preservation of natural history specimens and collections; giving advice not only on different aspects of capturing, finding, preserving, transporting and analysing plants, insects, fossils, animals and minerals but also on antiquities, religious rites, food, meteorology and even "precise directions for taking off impressions of cast from medals and coins".

The manual is also an incredibly practical, beautifully presented, well informed and advanced book that could be considered the founding publication for modern natural history preservation science. His advice on preserving natural history collections from pest attack anticipates by 200 years the groundbreaking Integrated Pest Management programs introduced in the last 20 years in Museums and Historic Houses:

It is uncertain if the manual was used by the great explorers of the period but given how popular it was at the time, it would be expected that copies of the book were carried on the many voyages of exploration that took place after its publication. It seems certain that Charles Darwin owned and used a copy although the great man was never known for being a good caretaker of his natural history collections.

John Coakley Lettsom was born in 1744 in Tortola, Virgin Islands. A Quaker concerned with anti-slavery, he manumitted the slaves from his two inherited plantations there; angering his plantation onwers neighbours then gaining their respect by setting up the first medical practice in the islands (with some of his former slaves trained as medical assistants) as he had become a doctor in Leiden, south Holland, in 1769.

Lettsom worked and travelled tirelessly all his life; famous for his commitment to his patients and the medical profession, he founded the Medical Society of London in 1775, the oldest in Britain and possibly in the world. In doing so, he showed great bravery and intelligence; parallel to his display of lateral thinking demonstrated in The Naturalist's and traveller's companion; by joining together the four branches of the medical profession in one society where they could share knowledge and experience:
Amazingly, he still had time to cultivate a famous garden in his London home, arranged according to the Linnaean system of classification:

The Library at the Natural History Museum also holds the original drawings made by his friend James Sowerby of the plants in Lettsom's garden, as well as a copy of his 1799 famous work "The natural history of the tea-tree".

Chris Ledgard's BBC4 Radio program: "What's eating your collections?" aired last September began quoting paragraphs from the Travellers's companion:

The Golden Age of Quaker Botanists by Ann Nichols, Cumbria, 2006.