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How to See the British Museum in Four Visits online

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biting; and the curious spider that bores a nest in the ground, lines
it sumptuously with its own silk, and then constructs a lid that
closes inevitably, as the insect leaves its house. Here too are the
scorpions. The last table of the series (12) is covered also with
varieties of the spider, including the land and shepherd spiders; the
African scarlet tick, and the centipedes. The visitor has now
completed his survey of the contents of this room, and should at once
pass forward in an easterly direction, traverse the British zoological
room, which he has already examined throughout, and pass into the
fourth room of the gallery.

The table-cases in this room present nothing that can greatly interest
the unscientific visitor. They are covered with varieties of


STARFISH; SEA-EGGS, ETC.

The sea-eggs are scattered over the first nine tables (1-9) in the
room. They live on small animals and sea-weed. The varieties include a
flat kind, vulgarly called sea-pancakes. The remaining cases of the
room are loaded with varieties of the star-fish. The mouth of the
star-fish is on its lower side, through which it takes its food. It
has innumerable feet, which it displays when in the water, and by
means of which it can climb rocks. Some of the varieties fall to
pieces on being taken from their native element, as the lizard, or
brittle star-fish. The gorgon's head, which has innumerable branches
from its central part, should be observed by the visitor; and the
sea-wigs, which are a kind of star-fish, somewhat resembling the
gorgon's head, with innumerable radii. They are placed upon table 24,
near a cast of a stem and flower, that has the appearance of a fossil
plant, but is in reality a cast of a crinoid star-fish that once
existed in great abundance. In the most eastern room of this gallery
are a few tables upon which are deposited the shells and tubes of
molluscous animals, to illustrate their changes, and the way in which
the animal adapts them to his position. The third and fourth tables
will, perhaps, interest the general visitor. Here he will find
specimens exhibiting the growth of Shells, and also how the animal
repairs any damage to its shell. Here, too, are the shells upon which
the modern cameo-cutters of Rome, work. As the visitor will perceive,
the design is engraved in relief upon the light outer layers of the
shell, leaving the darker under part exposed, as a back-ground.

The visitor's way now lies out of the northern gallery, by its eastern
door, near which he should notice a remarkable sun fish, of a bulky
and squat appearance. Having regained the first, or most northerly
room of the great eastern zoological gallery, the visitor should turn
to the south, examining the table cases of this gallery as he returns
through its spacious rooms. All the table cases of this gallery, with
the exception of a few small side tables, are covered with the vast
varieties of the

SHELLS

of molluscous or soft animals. These shells, scattered over no less
than forty-nine tables, represent the architectural capacities of the
great order of soft-bodied animals, only inferior in rank, in Cuvier's
"Animal Kingdom," to the Vertebrate animals.

Upon the first table, before which the visitor will find himself (49),
are some interesting specimens of the well-known Cuttle fish,
exhibiting its varieties, including the common cuttle fish found upon
our coasts; those which have the power of secreting a dark fluid, and
those from India, whose ink-bags furnish artists with that valuable
brown called sepia. Here, too, are the skeletons of the slender
loligos, or sea leaves, known also as sea-pens; and the crozier shell.
Upon the next six tables (48-53), proceeding southward, are the
varieties of the Oyster, the Mussel, and beautiful Mother-of-pearl
shells. But hence the visitor will probably proceed rapidly to the
south; inasmuch as the varieties of the mussel family, including the
Chinese pearl mussel and Scotch pearl mussel, the borers, the club
shell, and the cockle family, are not generally interesting; but he
will probably linger for a few moments near the pond mussels placed
upon some of the tables (38-41). The tables numbered from 24 to 30 are
covered with the varieties of hard shells, which, however, present no
points of interest to the general visitor, who may at once pass on to
the varieties of the Nautilus and Argonaut, (tables 23, 24). And here,
too, we must entreat the visitor to forget the poetic history of the
inhabitants of those beautiful shells, and learn that the extended
arms of the nautilus are used only to clasp its shell; that it has no
sails of any kind. The varieties of the paper nautilus, or argonaut,
are the most delicate and beautiful. The next table (22) displays the
shell of the curious carrier, that embodies all kinds of foreign
substances with its shell; the slipper shell, and the rose bud. Upon
the next table (21) are the Screws; the curious ladder shells from
China; and upon table 20, are the varieties of fresh water Clubs. The
next two tables (18, 19) display some curious and beautiful shells,
including Venus's ear, the pagoda shell, and varieties of Snails,
including the apple snails. Proceeding on his southern way, the
visitor should pause to notice the ear shells, placed upon tables 18,
17, including the beautiful rainbow; the button shells, the rainbow
eardrop, and the pyramid upon table 16; the pomegranate from the Cape
of Good Hope, New Zealand imperial, and pheasant, and the West Indian
golden sun, upon table 15; the weaver's shuttle and pig cowries,
including the Chinese variety, highly valued by the Chinese, as an
ornament; also upon table 15, more varieties of cowries, including the
money cowry of Africa, used there as money, and the orange cowry from
the Friendly Islands, where it is worn as an ornament; the five
varieties of the Volutes, including the red clouded volute, the
Chinese imperial volute, the bishop's mitre, and the papal crown,
distributed upon tables 12 and 13. The Melons, the large varieties of
which are put to domestic uses by the Chinese, the olives, and butter
shells, upon table 11; the magilus, whelks, and the needle shell upon
table 10; the purple shell that emits the colour from which it is
named, the mulberry shell, and the unicorn shell, distributed upon
table 9; the tun shell, the harps, the harp helmets, and the helmets
upon which cameos are carved, distributed about tables 8 and 7; the
spindle shells, including the great tulip shells, and the turnip
shells, occasionally used as oil-vessels in Indian temples,
distributed about the tables 5, 6, and 7 are all worth examination.
The splendid cone shells, which include the king of the collection,
pointed out to visitors as the glory of the sea, from the Philippine
Islands, and the African setting sun cone, upon tables 5 and 4; the
rock shells upon table 4: the trumpet shells upon table 3, so called
after the large kinds which savage tribes have been known to use as
horns; and upon the last two tables, the stombs, including the
beautiful varieties from the West Indies and China, close the list.

* * * * *

The visitor has now reached the Southern Extremity of the Eastern
Zoological Gallery, and brought his first visit to a conclusion. He
may well pause, however, before dismissing from his mind the objects
which have engaged his attention.

First, then, he examined the varieties of MAMMALIA. The mammalia, of
which man himself is the highest type, are the leading class of the
great order of vertebrate, or back-boned animals, and fishes are the
lowest, the intermediate classes being birds and reptiles. VERTEBRATA
are of higher rank in the animal kingdom than the mollusca, or
soft-bodied animals, those having "red blood and a double-chambered
heart." The mammalia are the class which suckle their young; second to
them are the BIRDS; and then the blood cools, the organisation is
inferior, and the REPTILES are produced; and lastly come the FISHES,
with cold blood, and wanting aerial lungs. Philosophers, who have
settled the scheme of the world as one of progression, complication,
or development, trace animal life from the polypus, (which belongs to
the order of Radiata, or animals that have a central point in which
the vital force of the animal appears to preside, diverging in radii,
as in the sea-eggs, starfishes, coral, sponges); the polypus advances
to the Articulata, or jointed animals, including all kinds of worms,
leeches, or ringed animals, of which insects are the most highly
organised developments; next to the Mollusca, or soft-bodied animals;
and then from these, which include the shell-fish, the scheme
gradually progresses to the fish with backbones; and here the lowest
order of Vertebrata is developed: the fish merges into the reptile,
the reptile into the bird; the bird, as in the ornithorhyncus, into
the Mammalia.

Thus the gradations of life may be clearly apprehended by the visitor.
The highest development of animal life he has seen in the MAMMALIA
SALOON, all the animals of which produce their young alive and suckle
them; the order of life immediately below the mammalia, he has
examined in the marvellous varieties of birds arranged in the NORTHERN
GALLERY; then he turned to the west, and examined the third order of
animal life in the REPTILES; then the fourth order represented by
FISH; and so on till he watched the simpler forms of life in the
STAR-FISH and the SPONGE.

The history of this marvellous progress of animal life, so far as
scientific men have gazed into its deep mysteries, is surely worth
attention. Few have the courage and the enthusiasm to follow each
footstep of the tiny ant at his complex labours, - few are the Hubers
that dwell among us; but to us all is given the love of that knowledge
which opens our eyes to a few of the mysteries that lie thickly on our
path, in the formation of the gravel upon which we tread, the clouds
that grandly glide above us, and the leaves that gather upon the
trees. After all the labours of our learned men, we are only now
pressing, with trembling footsteps, the avenue to the endless schemes,
and systems, and wonders, that lie buried in and about our world.
Still let all who enter our museum, go there with the resolve to
accomplish something by their visit. Even in the common concerns of
life; in the petty matters that wear away the brain at last; in the
market-places of the world, this insight is not without its effect.
The heart is humbled as the eyes open to the grandeur of the scheme,
and to the consequent littleness of individual manhood; but again, the
breast swells with the purest of all pride, when the thinker says to
himself: I am the King - because the hero or highest type of the
Articulata, Radiata, Mammalia, or any order of vegetable or animal
life. All these great and complicated developments are the beautiful
works of the Great Unseen, but I am His masterpiece. One may well
dream in this zoological museum, amid the staring glass-eyed skins of
an inferior brotherhood - of the long, long time ago when the fossils,
which are now scattered here and there, to assure us of their former
vitality, moved about the world, before they were stricken with
universal death, and buried by nature, deep in her teeming bosom, to
flourish presently in the veins of plants - the plants to die again,
and be dug, long ages after, from our deep coal-fields. These thoughts
towards nature, towards the marvellous records of an antiquity, the
remoteness of which we cannot realise, will rise to the minds of all
visitors who can see in the vast collection of animal life through
which we have guided them, revelations of the endless forms and the
endless beauties that pass often unnoticed, because not understood,
under every step that man takes in the many journeys that lie between
his hopeful cradle and his inevitable grave.

END OF THE FIRST VISIT.




VISIT THE SECOND.



On entering the British Museum for the second time, the visitor should
ascend the great staircase, pass through the south, central, and
mammalia saloons; traverse the eastern zoological gallery, and
continue north, direct into the first room of the most northern
gallery of the northern wing; - where the studies of his second visit
should begin. His first visit was occupied in the examination of the
varieties of animal life distributed throughout the surface of the
globe. The greater part of his time on this occasion will be devoted
to the study of the wonders that lie under the surface of the earth;
of the revelations of extinct animal life made by impressible rocks;
and of the metallic wealth which human ingenuity has adapted to the
wants and luxuries of mankind. In the fossil remains he will be able
to recognise traces of an animal life, of which we have no living
specimens; of trees, the like of which never rise from the bosom of
the soil at the present time. The lessons that lie in these
indistinct, disjointed revelations of the remote past, are pregnant
with matter for earnest thought to all men. They are part of our
history - links that hold us to the sources of things, and recall us
again and again to the condition of our universe, as it trembled into
space, and as now we inhabit it - a great and marvellous globe, every
grain of which has an unfathomable story in it. Philosophers have
laboured long at the story of the earth; and their revelations have
tended to settle it, in a form not unlike the following: -

Originally, within the space bounded by the orbit of Uranus, a gaseous
matter was diffused at a high temperature. By laws, the origin of
which we have not yet traced, the condition of the diffused heat was
changed, and the particles of the gaseous matter, condensed and
agglomerated by attraction, into a series of planets, of which our
earth is the third in point of size. That the earth has undergone vast
changes, is evident to the most superficial geological student. We are
only able to investigate the crust of the earth, with all our
ingenious boring instruments: but even in this crust we may trace a
gradual change, and recognise the silent operations of nature in ages
never counted by man. According to the popular theory, the earth must
have been sixty times as large as its present size, and have cooled to
its present dimensions, retaining still, in its unfathomable bowels, a
burning heat. The conclusions of geologists, after long and patient
examination, are, that certain rocks mark the age of the world - that,
in fact, the crust of the globe consists of a certain number of
strata, each belonging to a certain era, as the rings of a tree tell
its years of growth. The more they test this theory, the more certain
are they that the history of our globe may be accurately read in the
strata which compose its crust. "A granitic crust, containing vast and
profound oceans, as is proved by the extent and thickness of the
earliest strata, was the infant condition of the earth. Points of
unconformableness in the overlying aqueous rocks, connected with
protrusions of granites, and other similar presentments of the
internal igneous mass, such as trap and basalt, mark the conclusions
of subsequent sections in this grand tale. Dates, such as
chronologists never dreamed of - compared with which, those of Egypt's
dynasties are as the latter to a child's reckoning of its
birthdays - have thus been presented to the now living generation, in
connexion with the history of our planet."[5] These changing masses
have been discovered with remains of organic life wrapped in their
particles, each mass enclosing a petrified museum of the life that
flourished while it was in course of formation: thus not only have we
distinct proof of extinct forms of animal and vegetable life, but we
are also able to assign the dates of their existence.

The MOST EASTERLY ROOM of the NORTHERN MINERAL and FOSSIL GALLERY, is
that to which the visitor's attention will be first directed. In this
room, as in the next three, the table cases are devoted to the
minerals; and the wall cases, along the southern side of the gallery,
are filled with

FOSSIL VEGETABLES.

The wall cases of this room contain the various strata which have
traces of vegetable life. The earliest vegetable life of which the
geologist has found fossil remains is in the form of sea-weeds,
specimens of which the visitor will notice in case 1. The grand
harmony of the world's development is shown in this adaptation of the
earliest vegetable life to that of the earliest animal life - the
polypus drawing its sustenance from the sea-weed. In the next three
cases the visitor will notice various remains of fossil ferns (in clay
slate) and horse-tails, all indicating the former high temperature and
moisture of the localities in which they are found, since they are of
large proportions, and it is observable that these plants grow in bulk
according as they near the tropics. That the ferns and club mosses
have diminished with the decrease of temperature of the earth, is
proved by comparing the fossil club mosses, which have been found as
large as beech trees, whereas at the present time the most gigantic
club moss rarely exceeds three feet in height. In the lower sections
of the third, fourth, and fifth cases, the visitor may notice some
fine specimens of polished fossil woods; but the varieties of
vegetable fossils can hardly engage his serious attention for any
length of time, unless he have some real knowledge of botany and
geology; yet he may gather the solemn teaching that lies in those dark
masses of early coal formation and clay slate, even though he be
unable to explain the first principles of botanical science. He may
notice, however, in the fifth and sixth wall cases, fossil specimens
of extinct plants, including the sigillaria, which, when living, is
supposed to have attained often to the height of seventy feet. Having
noticed these vegetable remains, the visitor should cross to the
northern wall of the room, and examine the sandstones upon which the
tracks of an extinct animal called the chirotherium - and footprints,
supposed to be of birds, are distinguishable.

The central object in the room is a tortoise found in Hindostan, near
Allahabad. It is carved out of nephrite or jade, and is deposited upon
a curious table of inlaid ancient marbles. Against the eastern wall
are deposited some beautiful varieties of branched native silver from
Norway; Lady Chantrey's specimen of part of a coniferous tree,
semi-opalised; and a mass of websterite from Newhaven, Sussex. The
table cases now remain for examination. These are devoted to varieties
of

MINERALS.

and their combinations. The visitor should examine the cases in the
order in which they are arranged, beginning with the cases marked 1
and 1A. These two cases contain specimens of native Iron. Native iron
has nearly always proved to be of meteoric origin; and the specimens
are here arranged in the order in which they have been found. They
have fallen from the heavens at different places, and at different
periods. The largest known aerolite is that which fell in Brazil, and
was no less than eight feet in length. These huge solid masses of
iron, discharged from the clouds in a burning state, may well set the
brains of philosophic men to work, to unravel the splendid mystery
that contrives laboratories high up in the air, from which dense tons
of pure iron are discharged upon our earth. Humboldt, discarding the
Laplaceian theory that aerolites were detached masses of the moon,
which ignited on reaching the oxygen that surrounds our globe, asserts
that they are Lilliputian planets, having their system as we have
ours; that they are identical with shooting stars, and that they
occasionally fall to the earth by coming within the attraction of a
body of overpowering magnitude. In the case with these meteoric
specimens of native iron are specimens of native Copper - not often
found in a pure state; native Lead, of meteoric origin; one specimen,
exhibited in the form of a medal, having been cast out of the crater
of Vesuvius about two hundred years ago; and native Bismuth, which
expands as it cools.

In the second case the visitor will particularly notice the beautiful
threads of native Silver from the Hartz Mountains; and the various
forms in which pure silver is found; native Mercury, and combinations
of mercury and silver called native amalgam, some moulded into figures
by Mexican miners; native Platinum from Siberia; and Palladium.

The third case of the series is resplendent with samples of native
Gold - a metal that plays so powerful a part in the affairs of
men - that has roused the fiercest passions of mankind, and been
coveted by human beings from the remote times when the Phoenicians
dreamt of golden lands in the east. Half of this table case is covered
with native gold and alloys. Pure gold is generally found in separate
crystals or grains, but the metal is mostly found combined with other
substances. It is alloyed, for manufacturing purposes, with copper and
silver.

Half of the third case, and cases 4, 5, and 6 in this room, are
covered with various electro-negative metals and metalloids, classed
according to the system laid down by Berzelius. In the third case are
Tellurium and Tellurets. In the fourth are samples of native Arsenic,
and its combinations with nickel and cobalt; Carbon in its various
forms, pure as in the diamonds, which the visitor will notice
attentively, some imbedded in the earth in which they were discovered,
and models of celebrated diamonds; Black Lead in porcelain earth, for
which Cumberland is celebrated; Selenium in its combinations with
lead, mercury, sulphur, and other metals; and a medallion, in
selenium, of Berzelius, who discovered this metal in 1818. The sixth
case is covered with Sulphurets, chiefly of iron, these being commonly
known as iron pyrites. These specimens of the commonest of metallic
ores are from various parts of the world. Upon this table also are
deposited Lord Greenock's sulphuret of cadmium, commonly called
greenockite; and sulphurets of nickel. Having examined the first six
cases of the series ranged along the southern side of the room, the
visitor should turn to the six last cases of the series (55-60). The
first northern case (55) is covered with various Sulphates, or metals
in combination with sulphuric acid, exhibiting beautiful crystals and
colours, including sulphate of magnesia from Oregon; sulphate of zinc,
or white vitriol; sulphate of iron, or green vitriol; and the splendid
blue sulphates of copper from Hungary; beautiful sulphates of lead
from Anglesea; sulphates of alumina; common alum; and the splendid
specimens of lazurite, or lapis-lazuli, -

"Blue as the veins o'er the Madonna's breast,"

from which the beautiful pigment called ultramarine is extracted. In
1828 M. Guimet succeeded in making an artificial ultramarine, known
now extensively as French ultramarine, which is little, if at all,
inferior in beauty to lazurite. The next case (56) contains the
Arseniates, including arseniate of lime, crystallised; arseniates of
copper; arseniate of nickel; and red cobalt, or arseniate of cobalt.
The next case is devoted to the Phosphates, or metals mixed with
phosphoric acid, including crystals of the phosphate of iron from
Fernando Po, Bavaria, and Cornwall; phosphates of manganese; phosphate
of copper; yellow and green uranite; phosphates of alumina, including
the blue spar, which has been mistaken for lapis-lazuli, and the
phosphate of alumina known as turquois, found only in Persia, and
esteemed as an ornament. In the two supplemental table cases, 57 A and
B, the visitor may notice specimens of Pyromorphite, a combination of
phosphate and chloride of lead, and a combination of chloride of
calcium with phosphate of lime. These combinations, however, cannot
interest the general visitor.

The case marked 58 contains the varieties of Fluorides, or
combinations of fluorine and the metals. These include the fluoride of
calcium, of which the most familiar variety to Englishmen is that
known as Derbyshire spar, of which many useful articles are
manufactured in this country. Ladies particularly will halt with
interest before the case marked 58 A, where the fluorides, better
known as the topaz, are deposited. These include a fine series of
crystals from the Brazils, Siberia, and Saxony.

The 59th case is covered with Chlorides, or combinations of chlorine
with other substances, including rock salt, or chloride of sodium;
sal-ammoniac from Vesuvius; fine chloride of copper, exhibiting


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Online LibraryW. Blanchard JerroldHow to See the British Museum in Four Visits → online text (page 5 of 17)