Advent calendar

Door 5: Ghosts of the Museum – extra content


For this year’s advent blogathon, the Society’s Archives present a collection of extra lessons from the eminent, but sadly shortlived ‘Magazine of Natural History’….




Fossil Drawing class Ted Nield at the blackboard Blackboard View from the gallery 2 Busy drawing table 2

Last month, the Library held its second outreach event ‘Ghosts of the Museum’, in which 24 lucky pupils were treated to an elementary class on fossils and how to draw them taught by the special curator for the evening, Edward Charlesworth (aka the author and Geoscientist editor Dr Ted Nield). You can see images of the event above as well as download the hand outs which highlighted some of the activities of the extraordinarily argumentative Edward Charlesworth in our past meeting resources page. Those of you who are passing by the Burlington House can drop in to gasp in wonder at the selection of exhibits left over from the Society’s historical Museum on display in the Society’s Lower Library.

For others living a bit farther away, the Archives’ contribution to this year’s advent calendar is some of the content which couldn’t be squeezed into the evening. Cribbed directly from the pages of Charlesworth’s short-lived Magazine of Natural Historythis journal sought to exploit the rising popularity of science among the populace and, like many non-peer reviewed magazines in the period, saw serious, scientific papers sit alongside rather curious observations or experiments made by keen amateurs eager to be involved in scientific endeavours. I will of course be concentrating on the latter, accompanied by some quick illustrations rustled up especially for the occasion. Enjoy!

Mermaid textGabon, August 16, 1835, P.M. —I received Intelligence that a native residing in Sam’s Town had taken a singularly shaped fish, which, from the description given, I imagined to be a mermaid. On reaching the hut, I found two, both females, the largest was cut up, the natives in the act of preparing it for a meal. Of the other, the following is a brief description:- length, about 5ft; breadth across the shoulders, about 14 in; the head something like that of a porpoise, and without hair, united with the body by a short neck. From the shoulders downwards the shape was exactly the same as represented in the engravings of the mermaid with the exception of the arms. Instead of hands, they terminate the same as a turtle’s fin, and have no joints except at the shoulders. The breasts were perfectly feminine, and the arms folded across as if to protect them. The skin was thick, of a dun colour, and the surface of it quite smooth.

The natives inform me that this animal, when seen, always appears erect, with the head and shoulders above the water, and the arms in the same position as when I saw them.

Commander A N Herepath.

Note: This animal is evidently the Manatus senegalensis Desm., which was described by Adanson under the name of Lamantin—Editor [‘Magazine of Natural History’, New Series, vol 1 (1837), p110-111]

Manatee with hat sm

Competition update

Well done everyone who identified yesterday’s window as Brimham Rocks – leave a comment below if you recognise today’s! First to post the correct answer wins a point towards the Ultimate Geoadvent Prize….

Clark Fenton remains in the lead on two points, with Rallish and Martin Heys both on one…

5 thoughts on “Door 5: Ghosts of the Museum – extra content

  1. Pingback: Door 14: Ghosts of the Museum – the music of snails… | Geological Society of London blog

  2. Pingback: Ghosts of the Museum – The Unfortunate Toad | Geological Society of London blog

  3. Pingback: Door 19: Ghosts of the Museum – The Unfortunate Toad | Geological Society of London blog

  4. Pingback: Door 24: We wish you a Merry (Mary Anning) Christmas | Geological Society of London blog

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