Letter from SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD to GEORGE PERKINS MARSH, dated January 14, 1849.

Primary tabs

Publication InformationCarlisle Jan. 14' 1849

Page 1

My dear Mr. Marsh.

Please not to "ahem" at me for saying platydactyla. I but tell the tale as told to me by several authors referring to the species. Much obliged to you though for the criticism as well as the accompanying references.

I presume ere this you have seen Mr. & Mrs Churchill. They left on Friday morning last on their way to Washington. I sent by them Nilsson's Fauna Scandinavus, having obtained all necessary information from it.

You do not say any thing about these works of Rafinesque whose acceptance I requested if you wished them. Please let me know on this head.

I have been confined to the house for more than a week with cold and sore face, hope to be out and take a fresh start tomorrow. I have improved the season of trouble however, by posting up accounts with various old scientific codgers. I have undertaken to complete, what I commenced long ago--a classified index to all new descriptions of american vertebrate animals, with references to the precise date day, month, and year of each description. This is absolutely necessary to settle the conflicting claims of naturalists to priority of description & publication.

I am counting the weeks and days which must elapse ere the 4th of March (the day Congress adjourns) will make its appearance Do you know why?

I see in the Intelligencer of Thursday last an abstract of the report of the Librarian to the Smithsonian. By the way talking of the reports of the progress of science, who is to do the Zoology? I would like to bid for the

Page 2

vertebrates or a subdivision of them if I might be so presumptuous. It would be a fine change to get at certain grimly inaccessible periodicals.

I have heard nothing from Garrigue further, about the translation. I wrote to him and you by the same mail.

Are you memberised of that learned Society yet? But I forget my promise to hold my tongue and say nothing about it.

Yours trulyS F Baird

Page 3


I forgot to say specially that in my digging into old bookstores I found a lot of Rafinesque's works, historical naturally and politically. Among them is his history of the American Nation, Genius & Spirit of the Hebrew Bible c. Do you want them? Say but the word, and you shall have them, being rarities you may not have yet obtained them.

When you have any time in Philadelphia go to a dirty store in the Arcade, opposite Jones Hotel no 10, and ask to be shown up into the garret, where you will find an incongruous assemblage of books, in various departments, Literature, European as well as Oriental.

When in Phila. I spent much time in working out the synonyms of the Salamanders, and hope I exhausted the subject as far as it stood in that city. One work however containing species of North American Salamanders I could not find namely the Reptilia of Griffith's translation of Cuvier's Regne Animal. Will it

Page 4

be too much to ask you to refer to this book in Congress Library, and copy off the descriptions of the following species of Salamanders. They are either in the main body of the work or in an appendix by J E. Gray. I would like to have the precise date of publication of the volume or part in which each is contained. The descriptions are I presume very short. Salamandra frontalis, beecheii, greenii, variegata, platydactyla.

I wish you could see a few of the illustrated works they have at the Academy of Nat. Science in Phila. Their collection of illustrated voyages and travels is complete nearly. Astrolabe, Zelee, Coquille, Bonite, Blossom, Sulphur, Samarary, Expedition to the Morea, exploration of Algeria, Iceland, Egypt, Canary islands, Siebold's Fauna Japonica, Smith's South Africa, c c c. You must take some time to look over them. I wish I could be your Cicerone.

Agassiz writes word that Sonrel is at my plates of fishes. He never had the opportunity of seeing so may rare and wonderful things as were contained in the barrel of specimens sent him.
. Three new species of Lepidus or Gar fishes.

References in this letter:

Sven Nilsson, Illuminerade figurer till skandinavisk fauna, med beskrifningar. 2 vols. Lund, 1829-1838.

A Turkish born natural historian, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840) traveled extensively in the United States. He published over 900 works on a various of topics but specialized in botany and ichthyology.

Charles Rudolph Garrigue, a New York publisher, obtained the plates to F. A. Brockhaus's Bilder Atlas zum Conversations Lexicon (Leipzig) with the intention of republishing them with an English text. Marsh suggested that Baird translate and revise the work. It was a massive undertaking on which Baird spent four years. Published in 1852 as The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature, and Art, it established Baird's reputation.

Georges Cuvier, The Animal Kingdom arranged in conformity to its organization. With supplementary additions by Edward Griffith and Edward Pidgeon and notices of new genera and species by John Edward Gray. 16 vols. London: G.B. Whittaker, 1827-1835.

Swiss born zoologist and geologist, Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) emigrated to the U.S. in 1846 to join the faculty at Harvard where he became a leading figure in American science. He a member of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian and initially supported Baird but later disparaged his scientific accomplishments and, in 1863, attempted to block Baird's election to the National Academy of Sciences.