INDEX ANIMALIUM / Charles Davies Sherborn


Previous page | Printable version

Introduction by Charles Davies Sherborn

Thanks to the generous appreciation of the Trustees of the British Museum I now begin to print the second part of my "Index Animalium" (1801-1850), of which the first part (1758-1800) was published by the Cambridge University Press in 1902.

A general sketch of the aims and objects of the work having appeared in the Introduction to the first part, it will merely be necessary to say here that the actual collection of the material has occupied thirty-one years.

The Committee of the British Association continued its services and support until 1911, when, considering that it had exceeded its obligations in supporting one work for so many years, it suggested to the Trustees of the British Museum that, as the work was being carried out in that Institution and the manuscript was largely used by members of the scientific staff, they should take up the burden and finish a work which it was now evident would be accomplished provided the health of the compiler continued. The Trustees, having considered the matter, finally agreed to accept the responsibility (see Annual Reports of the British Association, 1897-1912, and of the British Museum, 1914 ⇛).

The following is a complete account of the financial assistance received for the compilation of the Index during may 30 years work:—

Year Brit. Assoc. Royal Soc. Zool. Soc. Brit. Mus. £ £ £ £ 1892 20 — — — 1893 — — — — 1894 50 — — — 1895 — — — — 1896 100 — — — 1897 100 100 — — 1898 100 — 100 — 1899 50 — 100 — 1900 75 — 100 — 1901 100 — — — 1902 100 — — — 1903 60 — — — 1904 75 — — — 1905 100 100 — — 1906 100 — — — 1907 75 50 — — 1908 75 — — — 1909 75 — — — 1910 75 50 — —


Year Brit. Assoc. Royal Soc. Zool. Soc. Brit. Mus. £ £ £ £ 1911 75 — — — 1912 — — — 100 1913 — — — 100 1914 — — — 100 1915 — — — 100 1916 — — — 100 1917 — — — 100 1918 — — — 100 1919 — — — 100 1920 — — — 140 1921 — — — 140

The following remarks will be of service to those who use this volume:—

Nomina nuda are distinguished by the letters [n. n.].

Nomina nuda accompanied by figures, by the letters [n. et f.].

In those cases where an author has described and figured a species some time after printing his nomen nudum, a reference is also given to the nomen nudum, when possible.

Species indett. (without trivial names), if figured, are included in the Index.

Misprints are quoted only if considered liable to cause confusion.

The date of publication of a species is taken to be that date on which the print in which the name appears is offered for public sale or public distribution.

No author's copy, or excerpt from any publication distributed privately before such publication was offered for public sale or public distribution has been accepted.

Entries taken from privately printed books are distinguished by the words auct. typ.

In all cases where the date is doubtful and cannot be definitely ascertained, the date figures are enclosed in brackets [], or have a "?" or some other distinguishing mark placed against them. The date always refers to that of the actual page, so far as my researches have enabled me to decide it.

Many of my notes on dates were incorporated by B. B. Woodward in his Catal. Libr. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) while his volumes were going through the press, and this work should always be consulted on bibliographical matters.

"In the case of plates which appeared before the text, the date of each is given if ascertainable; but in no case is the date of a plate accepted in preference to the date of text, for the reasons which follow:—

"The figure depicted on a plate may, or may not, be the drawing intended by the author; it is the work of the artist, who is responsible also for the descriptive legend. In numerous instances the descriptive legend on a plate is quite erroneous, and has been repudiated by the author in his text. Therefore until the text descriptive of a plate appears, the names on the plate must be considered as nomina nuda, and it is open to anyone to describe and rename such nomina nuda¹."


The following are the reasons for arranging the work under species and not under genera:—

1. No synonymy of species is attempted: that depends on the idiosyncrasy of the systematist.

2. Any attempt at specific synonymy would be opposed to progress, as experience shows that vast changes may take place in a single year.

3. An arrangement under species permits of a generic synonymy, for by running the eye down the second column of the printed work, it will be possible to ascertain some of the generic names with which a particular trivial name has been connected.

Although much time has been expended in trying to secure the endless combinations and permutations of specific names, it is felt to be impossible for one human being to attain completeness in this direction by reason of the colossal amount of literature to be dealt with. Those who wish to gain this desirable result are referred to such works as the British Museum Catalogues of Birds, Marsupials, and Fossil Fishes, Brady's Report on the Foraminifera of the Challenger, Della Torre's Hymenoptera, Bronn's Index Palaeontologicus, Stiles and Hassall's Indexes to Worms, etc., where such attempts have been carried to successful conclusion. Still, a great mass of references has been here included which it is hoped will have secured all generic and trivial names, and put the searcher on the track of a more complete synonymy. But even in this direction the methods adopted by many authors are such as to baffle the ingenuity of the recorder unless he happen to be a specialist in each group. Objection may be raised to those cases where the trivial name is referred back to a previous genus without a reference being given. I plead for compassion. Many hundreds of these cases have been pursued only to find that the author has quoted a previous author wrongly either by name or for the genus, and the time has been wasted. I am no longer young and, regrettable though it may be to me to leave such references unverified, I know my life is limited and I must press on.

It is likely that many cases of apparently duplicate entries will turn out to be so in fact, but the entries are given because it is by no means clear from the diagnoses or remarks of the authors that they are treating of a genus or species that has before appeared in literature. It is for the specialist to decide.

¹ This paragraph is reprinted from vol. I. The practice now obtains that names combined with recognisable figures must be accepted as valid.


All trivial names are entered as if they were masculine. e.g.

nigra will be found under niger

afrum " " afer

abdominale " " abdominalis.

It is obvious that no other arrangement is possible if we wish to preserve the history of a species; but a cross-reference is given when the feminine or neuter form of the trivial word differs so much as to obscure it to those unfamiliar with the dead languages.

The following abbreviations have been commonly used:—

= equal to ? query ad not later than ante before ant. om. (ante omnia) first of all apud according to, or, as stated by ascr. (ascriptum) ascribed to auctt. (auctorum) of authors auct. typ. (auctoris typis) privately printed cf. (confer) compare die indet. exact date unknown duo species eodem nomine two species with the same name (= homonym) emend. in emended to emend. pro emendation for errore in error err. pro (errore pro) error for ex. ann. extremo q. v. exeunte 1831 late in 1831 extremo 1831 at the end of 1831 genus caelebs genus to which no trivial name has been attached id. ac (idem ac) the same as in animo est he intends to write ineunte 1831 early in 1831 iniq. mut. (nomen inique mutatum) name unjustly changed me judice in my opinion n. et f. name and figure only n. n. (nomen nudum) name only non comp. (non comparet) it does not appear¹

¹ i.e. I have searched for this name but have not found it.


nom. fictum altogether fictitious name nom. ineptum nonsense name olim formerly p. id. the same page post after poster. edit. was issued later q. v. sp. which see for species rectius more correctly sine typo type not given vero propius nearer the truth (differs from me judice in that others are concerned in the opinion) v. et. (vide etiam) see also

There now remains the pleasant duty of thanking those who have so cordially given me assistance and helped to bring the work to an issue. Among those to whom I offer especial thanks are:—Agnes Arber, Chr. Aurivillius, F. A. Bather, George Bethell, Antonio Bezzi, G. A. Boulenger, W. H. Broadbent, W. T. Calman, C. P. Chatwin, Chas. Chubb, W. S. Churms, C. Forster Cooper, W. H. Dall, Bashford Dean, Edw. Degen, J. H. Durrant, H. W. England, C. E. Fagan, C. H. Fernald, Hans Gadow, F. Du Cane Godman, P. T. Goldsack, E. S. Goodrich, J. W. Gregory, G. K. Gude, C. F. T. Hadrill, Ant. Handlirsch, N. Bishop Harman, Sir S. F. Harmer, Ernst Hartert, Walter Horn, W. E. Hoyle, Tom Iredale, B. D. Jackson, J. W. Jackson, A. S. Kennard, H. O. Lange, R. T. Leiper, Gregory Mathews, J. S. Palmer, Hubert Powell, L. B. Prout, Mary J. Rathbun, A. Reynell, S. H. Reynolds, C. W. Richmond, Lord Rothschild, Jean Roux, Count Salvadori, Sigmund Schenkling, W. L. Sclater, T. Sheppard, Sir A. E. Shipley, F. D. Sladen, T. R. R. Stebbing, Witmer Stone, E. R. Sykes, W. M. Tattersall, O. Thomas, J. R. le B. Tomlin, the late Lord Walsingham, D. M. S. Watson, Thomas Wells, Jules Welsch, W. H. Wickes, T. H. Withers, A. Smith Woodward, B. B. Woodward, Henry Woodward, and in a general way the Librarians of the many Libraries that have so willingly afforded me their advice and assistance.

There are two persons whose help has been so great that without it this work could never have been carried to its successful issue, my Mother, and G. W. Barber; I am deeply sensible of their sympathies.

I am greatly indebted to T. H. Withers, who has kindly read my proofs for typographical errors.

Finally I would like to add that with the exception of about 5000 entries made for me by various friends abroad every entry has been recorded from the original, arranged, sorted, checked, and passed for press by myself. I therefore beg the indulgence of those who use this book for any errors of omission or commission that may occur. And as the whole work will take some years to go through the press a note of any such errors will be specially valuable for inclusion as we proceed or in the final part, in the same way as such information received since the issue of my first volume has been duly recorded in the proper order herein.



British Museum (Natural History),
London, S. W. 7.
October 1921.

This project was funded by
the Atherton Seidell Endowment Fund of the Smithsonian Institution
Credits | Permissions | Copyright | Privacy | Smithsonian Home