W. Blanchard Jerrold.

How to See the British Museum in Four Visits online

. (page 6 of 17)
Online LibraryW. Blanchard JerroldHow to See the British Museum in Four Visits → online text (page 6 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

beautiful crystals; and chlorides of silver and mercury. The two last
cases in the room (60 and 60 A) contain samples of coal, bitumen,
resins, and salts. Here will be found the honey-stone of Thuringia;
crystals of phosphate of magnesia and ammonia called struvite;
beautiful specimens of amber, some pieces of which inclose insects;
and copal, also containing insects; fossil copal; mineral pitch, from
naphtha to asphalt; the elastic bitumen of Derbyshire, exhibiting its
different degrees of softness; Humboldt's dapèche, an inflammable
fossil of South America; and brown and black coal. Having noticed all
these varieties, the visitor should advance at once westward into the
second room of the mineralogical gallery.

Here, against the southern wall, are groups of


ranged inside and upon the top of the wall cases. The most remarkable
of the remains inclosed in the wall cases of this room are the remains
of the carapace and other portions of the gigantic Fossil Tortoise
from the Sewalik Hills, Bengal, discovered by the enterprising Major
Cautley; and the gigantic fossil bones of an extinct genus of birds
that inhabited New Zealand in the remote past. But these wall cases
are mainly devoted to the exhibition of chelonian, or tortoise
fossils, which are the highest class of fossil reptiles, except the
serpents, and found only in the later or oolite formations of the
earth. The regularity with which the various families of reptiles are
discovered in the earth's strata, according to their order, is
remarkable. First the Lizards are found in the magnesian limestone,
immediately above the coal deposit, indicating their early appearance
on the earth; the next deposit, or new red sandstone, introduces us to
the Frogs; the oolite to the Tortoises; and the recent tertiary strata
to the Serpents. The bones of the tremendous wingless birds, which are
deposited in the third case of this room, have been recognised by
Professor Owen as the remains of an animal that must, when living,
have stood eleven feet high. By the windows in the northern wall of
the room are deposited the beautiful crystallised mass of Selenite, or
sulphate of lime, found in the duchy of Saxe Coburg, and presented to
the museum by Prince Albert; and a mass of carbonate of lime,
presented by Sir Thomas Baring. Having noticed these prominent
attractions of the room, the visitor should direct his attention to
the table cases, and first to those ranged along the southern half of
the room (7-13). Five of the tables are loaded with further specimens
of the Sulphurets, or metals in combination with sulphuric acid. In
the first case (7) are sulphurets of copper, and copper iron; in the
second case (8) are the series of sulphurets of lead, or galena, from
various parts of the world; in the third case (9) are specimens of
sulphuret of bismuth, needle ore, or sulphuret of bismuth, copper, and
lead, and sulphurets of mercury, or cinnabar, chiefly from Spain, the
light variety of which is the bright vermilion used by artists; in the
fourth case (10) are the sulphurets of silver, the beautiful
crystallised sulphurets of antimony, chiefly from Transylvania, and
the delicate plumose antimony, or feather ore; in the fifth case (11)
are the sulphur salts, including the ruby, silver, &c.; and in the
sixth case (12) are the sulphurets of Arsenic, red orpiment, of which
the best comes from Persia, cobalt glance, &c., bringing the series of
sulphurets to a conclusion.

In the next case (13) the series of Oxides begins. Herein are the
oxides and hydrous oxides of manganese.[6] Having examined the
sulphurets and oxides, the visitor should cross to the northern suite
of tables marked from 48 to 54. Here are arranged a series of the
Carbonates, or combinations of carbonic acid with earths, metallic
oxides or alkalis.

In the first case (48) are some specimens of brown spar from Hungary,
fibrous and crystallised carbonates of iron, and manganese spar; in
the second case (49) are the varieties of zinc spar, or carbonates of
zinc, lead spar, or carbonates of lead, and carbonates of bismuth and
cerium; in the third and fourth cases (50, 51) are the carbonates of
copper, the 51st case containing those splendid green carbonates of
copper from the mines in the Uralian Mountains, known commonly as
Malachite, and when in a polished state vulgarly mistaken for a green
and beautifully veined marble. Most visitors on examining these lumps
of malachite will think of the beautiful colossal furniture
manufactured of it by the Russians, and exhibited by them in their
department of the Great Exhibition. The next three cases (52-54) are
filled with series of sulphates, and some nitrates, including native
nitre, or saltpetre. The Sulphates in the cases include glauber salt,
or sulphate of soda; heavy spar or sulphates of baryta, among which
are some splendid crystallisations from Piedmont, Hungary, Spain, and
other countries; sulphate of strontia, known also as celestine, among
which are some delicate blue crystals from Sicily; sulphates of lime,
as gypsum, including some fine specimens of alabaster, and the fibrous
sulphate known vulgarly as tripe-stone. The visitor has now examined
the contents of the second room; the fossil tortoises and great
wingless birds; the mineral combinations - nearly all of which are
useful to man; and the way westward may be resumed to the third
department of the northern mineralogical gallery. In the wall cases of
this room are deposited some of the most interesting


Of these the celebrated fossil Salamander (which a German enthusiast
mistook for a fossil human skeleton), deposited in the first case,
will probably be most attractive to the general visitor. The first
three wall cases are devoted to the batrachian or Frog fossils; some
of the chelonian or Tortoise fossils; and the fossil crocodiles.
Fossil lizards are the most numerous of all fossil remains. Of these,
including the fossil crocodiles, the visitor will notice specimens in
the wall cases of this room, indicating the enormous size to which
these extinct reptiles must have grown. One, the Iguanodon (case 3)
was an animal that measured seventy feet in length. It existed in this
country; various bones of it are in this case. The remains of the
fossil Alligator, known as the mosasaurus, are also here, together
with the wealden lizard of Kent, which was about twenty-five feet in
length, and part of Cuvier's wonderful fossil Flying Lizard, or
sterodactylus, which is described as a reptile having mammalian
characteristics, a bat's wings, enormous eyes, and a bird's neck. In
the westerly cases of the room the visitor should notice the fossil
sea lizards divided into two families - the Plesiosaurus, and the
Ichthyosaurus. The plesiosaurus was an extraordinary reptile, of
gigantic size, the length of whose neck exceeded that of its body and
tail. It had ribs like a chameleon, and the body of a whale: it
chiefly inhabited the water; but as the visitor will find the chief
types of these extraordinary extinct reptiles in the next room, he may
at once, with the comfortable assurance that the Weald of Kent yields
nothing in the present day like the wealden lizard, turn to the table
cases of the room, in which he-will find further varieties of


The southern range of tables is numbered from 14 to 23; and the
northern range from 38 to 47. The first three tables of the southern
range (14-16) are covered with the varieties of Oxides of Iron,
including magnetic iron ore; natural magnets; the salam-stell of the
East Indies; iron glance from Elba, Vesuvius, and Stromboli, some of
which are very beautiful; brown iron stones, including the variety
used as hair powder by natives of South Africa; and the pea ores that
fell in a shower, on the 10th of August, 1841, in Hungary. In the next
case (17) are the Oxides of Copper; bismuth; red oxide of zinc; cobalt
ochres; oxide of uranium; and pitch ore. In the nineteenth case are
the Oxides of Lead; and in the twentieth are the first of the oxides
of electro-negative substances. This case contains the valuable
alumina known as noble corundite, and to jewellers in its formations
of ruby, sapphire, and the oriental emerald, topaz, and amethyst.
Herein also is the kind of corundum known as emery, and esteemed for
its polishing properties. In this case also are the Aluminates of
Magnesia, including the sapphirine; the chrysoberyls from Brazil, and
those inclosed in quartz and felspar with garnets. The next four cases
(20-23) are loaded with the varieties of the Acid of Silicium or
silica, which constitutes the greater part of hard stones and minerals
with which the earth is encrusted. It is nearly pure in the rock
crystal, of which there are many specimens in the first case (20),
including those crystals called Bristol and Gibraltar diamonds,
cairngorms, the smoky topaz; rock crystals inclosing foreign
substances, and in a wrought state: of these Dr. Dee's snow-stone is
one. The next two cases (21, 22) are devoted to the varieties of
common quartz, including the flexible sandstones of Brazil (of which
there are some larger specimens upon a separate table) and to those of
the east; milk quartz; the Salzburg blue quartz, &c.; some varieties
of the cat's eye; hornstones, including wood changed into hornstone:
and herein begin the flints, including some specimens changing into
calcedony, smalt blue calcedony from Transylvania; the Icelandic
stalactical calcedony; and the fine Cornish calcedony. Upon the last
southern table (23) are ranged further varieties of calcedony. These
include the blood stone; the curious Mocha stones; and agates,
including the agate nodule from central Asia. Having sufficiently
examined these beautiful varieties of calcedony, the visitor should
pass at once to the northern range of tables.

Upon the first of these tables (38) are some new scientific varieties
of mineral substances, in which the unscientific visitor will not take
any interest; herein also are Oxides of Antimony, including white
antimony from Bohemia; red antimony, or kermes, not to be mistaken for
the ancient dye used by the old Greek and Roman dyers, which was
obtained from the female _coccus illicis_; and tungstates of lime,
lead, and of iron and manganese.

In the second case (39) are the Molybdates and molybdic acid; the
Chromates, including red lead ore from the Siberian gold mines of
Beresof; chromate of lead and copper, and crome iron from Var, in
France; - the Borates, including borates of magnesia, and borate of
soda, or borax. In the third case (40) are some remarkable varieties
of silicates, which contain borates from Norway and other countries;
and in the fourth case (41) are the first in order, of the carbonates,
including carbonates of soda, the beautiful crystals of carbonate of
baryta, carbonate of strontia and aragonites, from Aragon, Hungary,
Bohemia, and Vesuvius; and in the next case (42) are deposited further
varieties of aragonite, and some remarkable varieties of calcite, or
carbonate of lime. The next three cases (43-45) are chiefly devoted to
the various crystallisations of calcite, including that generally
known as the Fontainbleau crystallised sandstone, and the stalactic
and fibrous varieties from Africa, Sweden, and Cumberland; while the
two cases marked 45 A and B are covered with polished samples, known
to people generally as marbles, including the beautiful fire marble.
The forty-sixth case is also covered with calcites, including the
reastone, the limestone incrusted upon a human skull, found in the
Tiber at Rome. In the 47th case are varieties of carbonate of
magnesia, and magnesian limestone, including a remarkable one from
Massachusetts. Some marble tables are also in this room, placed here
to exhibit the beauties of various calcites. The table of Serpentine
is here: also the table inlaid with porphyries; one with a series of
bivalve shells (25); and in the centre of the room is the stalagmitic
table, from the Blythe lead mine, Derbyshire, with black marble legs
from Bakewell, given to the trustees of the Museum by the Duke of
Rutland. Before leaving this room the visitor should not fail to
notice the Maidstone Iguanodon deposited in a bed of sandstone, and
placed beneath the central north window of the room. The bones are
disjointed, but the general form of the reptile may be more perfectly
seen here than in any other fossil remains of the iguanodon. Having
noticed this fossil, and remarked the classed groups of gigantic dark
fossil bones, which cover the southern wall, the fossil turtles from
Sussex and other parts, and the great fossil thigh bones of reptiles
that have passed long since from the face of the earth, the visitor
should once more advance into the fourth room of the gallery.

In this room the wall cases are devoted to


Of these the most interesting specimens are the remains of the Marine
Lizards known as ichthyosauri from the English lias formation. To the
right on entering, against the eastern wall of the room, the visitor
should first notice the fossil remains of various carnivorous animals,
including the skulls and other osseous wrecks of hyenas, bears, &c.,
and also, carefully screened in an additional glass case, hereabouts,
the lower jaw of a marsupial animal on a slab of oolitic limestone - an
early deposit, in which the highest class fossils generally found are
the tortoises.

In this room, however, the visitor will notice the progress of early
creation - first, the zoophytes; then the fish lizards; then the fossil
ruminants; then the fossil carnivora. Examples of these fossil remains
are all included in the room which the visitor has now reached. First,
he should examine the fossil remains of the ichthyosauri, or fish
lizards, ranged in the first three wall cases, particularly that
eighteen feet in length, deposited in the third case, one on the upper
shelf of the fourth case, and another on the upper shelf of the fifth
case. The case marked F contains fossils of a higher order than the
reptiles, as the bones and antlers of deer, found in later strata of
the earth's crust; and on the top of the case are the horn and skull
of a species of Texan bos. Having noticed these curious remains,
principally of extinct species of animal life, the visitor should at
once turn to the table cases which contain the last of the
illustrations of the mineral kingdom.


The southern tables include the numbers 24 to 30. The first table
contains a very attractive collection of minerals, including the
varieties of jasper; all kinds of opals - the sun opal, the semi-opal,
wood opal, and wood partially opalised. The second table (25) is
covered with varieties of Silicates of Lime, magnesia, and alumina;
also soapstone, keffekil, or the meerschaum, highly esteemed by
smokers, serpentine, chrysolite, &c. The third case (26) is devoted to
Silicates of Zinc, magnesia, serium, copper, iron, bismuth, and other
minerals; the fourth and fifth cases (27, 28) to zoolitic substances;
the sixth case (29) to various minerals including samples of jade or
nephrite, of which the tortoise, in the first room of this gallery, is
manufactured; and the seventh case (30) to felspathic substances,
including amazon stone from the Urals, and Labrador felspar. The
northern cases are numbered from 31 to 37. In the first case (31) are
varieties of felspar; in the second case (32) are micaceous and other
mineral substances; in the third case (33) are basaltic hornblende,
tremolite, &c.; in the fourth case (34) are varieties of asbestus,
which defies the action of fire; jeffersonite; jenite from the Elba,
&c.; in the fifth case (35) are various pyroxenic minerals; in the
sixth case (36) are various kinds of garnets, including the lime and
chrome varieties; and in the 37th case are the silicates, including
beryls, and the emerald.

Having brought his examination of the mineral kingdom to a conclusion,
the visitor should notice the fossil zoophytes and shells from various
deposits, arranged upon the other tables of the room. He will now
leave the mineral kingdom, and advancing once more westward, will
reach the fifth room of the gallery, which is entirely given up to
various fossil remains.


The first object that will arrest the visitor's attention on entering
this fine apartment is the gigantic skeleton of the extinct elk of
Ireland, which towers above every other object, from its pedestal,
placed in the centre of the room. It is seven feet in height, and
eight feet in length.

The southern wall cases and the southern table cases of this room are
covered with the fossil remains of various fishes. These are important
to the student as exhibiting high forms of animal life that existed at
the time of the formation of the most ancient strata in which organic
remains have been discovered. The visitor will notice the perfect
forms imprinted upon the various strata here exhibited.

In case 7 he will be struck with the fossil remains of some of the
sauroids or lizard-like fishes, only two species of which survive to
the present day, but which, in remote ages, abounded in the seas, and
were particularly voracious. On the middle shelf of the wall case
marked B the visitor should notice the fossil remains of the enormous
and powerful carnivorous fish called the rhizodus; also the macropoma,
like a carp in shape, in wall cases 13, 14; the fossil bremus in case
19; the extinct species of fossil carps, in cases 24, 25; the fossil
pikes in cases 24-27; and the fossil herrings in the middle of cases
25-27. Having noticed these fossils the visitor should examine the
wall case in the north-eastern corner of the room in which are
deposited many bones of mammalia from the Sewalik Hills, including the
teeth and jaws of an extinct species of camel; and the skull of the
remarkable livatherium; and on the top of the case are various bones
of the same extinct monster. The tops of the southern cases display
various fossil remains, including the head-bones of the asterolepis;
the skull and antlers of the Irish elk; and various skulls of
different kinds of oxen. The western wall case is filled with a
curious collection of various fossil parts of an extinct species of
rhinoceros found in this country, also skulls of the rhinoceros dug up
in Siberia. There is something impressive in the effect - the
atmosphere of this and the sixth rooms. As crowds of holiday people,
inhabitants of an island in which no dangerous living animals now
abide, wander amid the fossil remnants of ages when the most terrible
monsters must have lived in British waters and crawled upon British
ground, curious contrasts rise in the brains of contemplative men. The
mind wanders back to the age of reptiles - to times when no human
footprint had sunk into the earth - and the great agents of nature were
silently depositing in the congregating and shifting earths dead
images of the prevailing life. Ages roll on as the reptiles give place
to higher animal organisation developed in carnivora, the quickening
blood warms, and then as the sovereign of all the grades of life,
erect and gifted with reason, comes man. Something of this vast and
half-told progress is shown in the range of fossil cases with which
the visitor is engaged. He has passed the era of reptiles and fishes,
and on entering the sixth and last room of the gallery, he will notice
the higher series of fossils. The distribution of the


in this room is very striking; the central space being fully occupied
by the cast of the wonderful megatherium of the Pampas, and the
skeleton of the North American mastodon. The megatherium is described
zoologically as having combined the characteristics of the armadillo,
sloth, and ant-eater. In height it averaged eight feet; its feet were
a yard in length; and its claws were of terrible strength; it was
encased in an impenetrable scaly armour; and it lived upon roots. The
mastodon was of the elephant kind. But the gigantic tapir described by
Baron Cuvier, or the dinotherium, supposed by the Baron to have
reached the extraordinary height of eighteen feet, of which only
partial remains have been found, and are here deposited, is the
largest fossil mammalia yet discovered. It is said to have had the
habits of the walrus. The southern wall cases of the room contain a
fine collection of the fossil remains of elephants and mastodons,
chiefly from the Sewalik Hills of northern India. The third case (c)
is filled with Brazilian fossils of varieties of the megatherium,
monkeys, &c. On the right of the entrance from the fifth room are some
fossil mammalia from Montmartre arranged by Cuvier. Having wandered
about amid these suggestive wrecks of the remote past, the visitor
should approach the central upright case placed against the western
wall of this noble room. Here is a fossil of part of a human skeleton,
the possession of which our geologists owe to the fortune of war - it
having been found on board a French ship captured by an English
cruiser. As the visitor will perceive, the skull is wanting, but this
important part is said to lie in an American museum. However, the
spine, the thigh bones, and the ribs are distinctly visible. This
precious relic was extracted, with other human fossils, from the
cliffs of Guadaloupe, about forty years ago. It is the skeleton of a
savage slaughtered about one hundred and fifty years ago, and buried
in the spot where it was found. As yet, the period when man first
appeared upon the face of the earth is not told in geology. No fossil
human remains have been found even in the ancient tertiary strata. The
story of human life is revealed in other records, if not in the
sepulchral strata of the earth's crust. In this very Museum, which the
visitor now treads - in these cases of fossil bones which in themselves
are common material enough, the lordly intellect that has traced their
deep significance, proves that, of all animal types, man is the
highest and the strongest - removed from the most powerful mammoth and
megatherium - the bones of which he has re-fixed, that they may, as
stones, tell the story of their wonderful characters when alive. A
curious resurrection this, by Cuvier and others, of long ages ago, to
be pondered well. Not a holiday matter, to be stared at - an hour's
wonder - and then forgotten, as of no value in the markets of the
living world; but a great and a serious science, with more romances in
it than shelves of novels. To know something of the early state of the
world which we enjoy - to have some evidences given to us that before
human animals began to play their part here, wonderful monsters, part
mammalia, part birds, part reptiles, gambolled upon the scene; that
wingless birds stalked upon marshy grounds; that strange and ghastly
lizards crawled upon our fruitful Kent; and gigantic fish floated in
our tranquil waters, but no beautiful humming birds, majestic lions,
and graceful horses - only crawling and swimming life, everywhere
preying, and the early sea-weed rising in the sea because the polypus
wanted its food: to think of these things is to have some knowledge.
In these dim regions of the past, what glimpses are there of the great
eternal laws, the natural progresses, the continual upward tendency of
all things! And then, taking this revealed book of the past in his
hand, how a man may sit and ponder on all that is to be - dream of
times when some future geological hammer will be rapping at the clay
about the stone relics of his bones, and a man will gaze upon his
hardened anatomy with a mild and holy joy - when all that breathes and
moves to-day will be entombed in ancient strata of the earth, and busy
life will be carried on a hundred feet above the ruins of the present.
These thoughts dwell happily with good men.

Hence, proceeding on his way, the visitor returns east from the sixth
room into the fifth, and turns thence south, into the passage which
leads into the western gallery of the Museum, and immediately into


This room is always an attractive part of the Museum to the majority
of visitors. Here are arranged illustrative specimens of the arts and
customs of people who lived two thousand years before our era; and the
preserved bodies of men and women who trod the streets of Thebes and
Memphis, partakers of an advanced civilisation, when the inhabitants
of Europe were roaming about uncultivated wastes, in a state of
barbarism. Here are graceful household vessels, compared with the art
of which the willow pattern of the nineteenth century is a barbarism,

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryW. Blanchard JerroldHow to See the British Museum in Four Visits → online text (page 6 of 17)