Biodiversity Heritage Library

If you’ve ever looked for an organism description or plate from an early taxonomic publication, you should check out this Web site. Ten major museum, botanic, and research libraries are scanning their legacy taxonomic literature and making it available for free. So far, they have scanned almost three thousand titles (almost 3 million pages). These are titles that are rare in most library collections (including ours), but continue to be used because systematic biology depends on access to this historic literature. This project makes the publications available to a global audience, including scientists in countries without access to large research libraries!

You can browse these publications by title, author, or publication year. You can also select by subject or scientific names using tag clouds. The publications are also identified by location on a world map!

Try a few searches and see what you think. For example, search the word “Hawaiian” to access some of Earl Edward Sherff’s taxonomic publications. For a real treat, check out some of the color plates in “The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala.”


One Response to “Biodiversity Heritage Library”

  1. Martin Says:

    You may want to check out the following work which the Smithsonian will be depositing into the BHL portal shortly:

    The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession (1893-1900) by Walter Rothschild
    In 1890, when Rothschild was 23, he sent a sailor named Henry Palmer to the Sandwich Islands (as the Hawaiian Islands had been named by Captain James Cook in the late 1770s) and most particularly to Laysan, one of the Leeward Islands in the Hawaiian archipelago now part of the Hawaiian Islands Bird Reservation. His instructions were to collect as many different birds as possible, with special attention to inter-island variation. Palmer spent over two years at the task, from December 1890 to August 1893, and sent almost 2000 specimens back to Tring, including representatives of 15 species previously unknown to Western science and several species which have since become extinct.

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