Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 147–163 | Cite as

Juan Bautista Bru (1740–1799) and the description of the genus Megatherium

  • José M. López Piñero


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  1. 1.
    Translated from the Spanish by Elizabeth Ladd.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Piveteau, “Paléontologie des Vértebrés,” in R.Taton, ed., Histoire générale des sciences (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961), III, 1, 519.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The only reference works that mention Juan Bautista Bru are J. Pastor Fuster, Biblioteca valenciana de los escritores que florecieron hasta nuestros días con adiciones y enmienda a la de D. Vicente Ximeno, 2 vols. (Valencia: José Ximeno, 1827–30), II, 120; S. Aldana, Guía abreviada de artistas valencianos (Valencia: Ayuntamiento, 1970); and a. Palau Dulcet, Manual de librero hispano-americano, 28 vols. (Barcelona-Madrid: J. M. Viader, 1948–77), II, 435 (this last author also mentions the book in which Bru published his study on the skeleton of Megatherium, but it is cited in the entry on José Garriga [VI, 130]). C. Nissen, in his great work on the history of zoological illustration (Die zoologische Buchillustration: ihre Bibliographie und Geschichte [Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 1969], I, 67), also mentions Bru, although he offers only a very incomplete reference to one of his works. Bru is also mentioned by A. J. Barreiro, El Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (Madrid: C.S.I.C., 1944), pp. 14, 23, 26, 49, 68, 69, 92; none of Barreiro's references refers to the mounting of the Megatherium skeleton, although it is mentioned in passing in Eduardo Hernández Pacheco's prologue (p. 35). In addition, Bru's works are cited in a number of art catalogues: M. Velasco Aguirre, Catálogo de grabados de la Biblioteca de Palacio (Madrid: Gráficas Reunidas, 1934), no. 15; E. Páez Ríos, Repertorio de grabados españoles de la Biblioteca Nacional (Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura, 1981), I, 173; J. Carrete Parrondo et al., Catálogo. Estampas, Cinco siglos de imagen impresa (Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura, 1981), pp. 165, 253; and L. Alegre Núñez, Catálogo de la Calcografía Nacional (Madrid: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 1968), pp. 139, 140, 196 (this last author attributes to Manuel Bru the copperplates of Juan Bautista Bru preserved in the same institution). Bru's name is routinely omitted from the principal biographical dictionaries of Valencian, Spanish, and foreign artists.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    I have published a short introduction to the material presented here in my column in Investigación y Ciencia (#76 [1983], pp. 4–6) and in an entry in J. M. López Piñero et al., Diccionario histórico de la ciencia moderna en España, 2 vols. (Barcelona: Peninsula, 1983), I, 135–136. Both articles contain several errors of detail that are corrected here. I would like to thank María Luz Terrada for her valuable assistance in locating and describing Bru's prints and manuscripts.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    J. Pastor Fuster, Biblioteca valenciana de los escritores que florecieron hasta nuestros días con adiciones y enmienda a la de D. Vicente Ximeno, 2 vols. (Valencia: José Ximeno, 1827–30), II, 120.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. Pastor Fuster, Biblioteca valenciana de los escritores que florecieron hasta nuestros días con adiciones y enmienda a la de D. Vicente Ximeno, 2 vols. (Valencia: José Ximeno, 1827–30), II, 120.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Palau Dulcet, Manual del librero, II, 435.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Barreiro, Museo Nacional, pp. 14, 92. Barreiro's history, although it was published in incomplete form soon after his death, is still the only important account of the Royal Cabinet of Natural History.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    This Indice de las aves contenidas en la botijada is preserved in the Archivo del Museo Natural de Ciencias Naturales, legajo 3; see Barreiro, Museo Nacional, pp. 28, 35–37. For Azara's works and complementary bibliography, see López Piñero et al., Diccionario histórico, I, 82–88.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    It is significant that in 1794 the Royal Cabinet considered purchasing John Hunter's museum of natural history, at the suggestion of the geologist Carles de Gimbernat; see Barreiro, Museo Nacional, pp. 69–71.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See ibid., pp. 1–77; quotation on p. 60.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ibid., p. 49.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ibid., p. 69.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Colección de láminas que representan los animales y monstruos del Real Gabinete de Historia Natural de Madrid, con una descripción individual de cada uno, 2 vols. (Madrid: Andrés de Sotos, 1784–86). Complete sets, such as the ones in the National Library and the National Museum of Natural Sciences, both in Madrid, are rare. The British Museum has vol. I only. Because the work was published in monthly installments there are incomplete copies in the Library of Congress (bearing the false title Animales y aves, which appears on the binding) and in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris (with the title of the first installment: Quaderno primero de los animales y monstruos del Real Gabinete de Historia Natural de Madrid); see Nissen, Zoologische Buchillustration, I, 67.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Colección de láminas, I, dedication and prologue, n.p.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid., II, plates 54 and 55; anatomical description on pp. 41–44.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Ibid., I, plate 7, pp. 15–16.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ibid., I, prologue, n.p.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ibid., II, “Al lector,” n.p.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Until recently the only published reference to this work was in Velasco Aguirre, Catálogo de grabados, no. 15. The catalogue describes a series of 133 illustrations stored in the library, with the hand-written title: “Collection of the Fish and Other Maritime Products of Spain Drawn up by Order of His Majesty.” After the title there is another handwritten entry, which says, among other things, that the author made this by traveling, beginning in 1780, “all the shores of the Peninsula, observing and writing about the fish, marine insects, crustaceans, testaceans, plants and marine birds of both seas,” taking charge of “the anatomical part” and supervising the “engraver and illustrator D. Juan Bru de Ramón.” It also says that the work was interrupted in 1790 when the author, under royal orders, had to undertake the preparation of a Historical Dictionary of the National Fishing Industry. The title and entry contain several notable inaccuracies, the most important being that the entry gives the author's name as Antonio Gómez Reguart and states that the work was stopped in 1790, and that Bru was the author of the drawings. The original manuscript of Sáñez Reguart's book is preserved in the library of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, the successor institution of the Royal Cabinet. It is a handwritten volume whose title, which serves as a frontispiece, reads: “Colección de producciones de los mares de España. Tomo l. Formada de orden de S. M. por Dn. Antonio Sáñez Reguart...Año de 1796” (Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Mss 34–35). It has 307 folios. The index appears first, followed by a general preface, an “introduction to the history of the fish and marine products of Spain,” and “Part 1. On the long narrow fishes.”Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Colección de producciones, I fols. 1r–24r.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ibid., Atlas.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    “Dibujos que se creen originales de la colección de los mares de España,” 3 vols., Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Mss 14–16.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Archivo del Museo de Ciencias Naturales, legajo 9: memorandum from Manuel Godoy to Clavijo, dated November 2, 1796 relating to Garriga's request to continue the work of Sáñez Reguart (carpeta 2); memorandum from Garriga to Clavijo, February 2, 1797, abandoning the project (carpeta 3).Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Páez, Repertorio de grabados, I, 173.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    L. Alegre Núñez, Catálogo de la Calcografía Nacional (Madrid: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 1968), pp. 139, 140, 196; I have already mentioned that this catalogue attributes these to Manuel Bru.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Diccionario histórico de los artes de la pesca nacional, 5 vols. (Madrid: Viuda de Ibarra, 1791–95), I, plate preceding p. 1. Bru is the author of the drawing only; the plate was engraved by José Gómez de Navia.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    José Garriga, Descripción del esqueleto de un quadrúpedo muy corpulento y raro, que se conserva en el Real Gabinete de Historia Natural de Madrid (Madrid: Viuda de Ibarra, 1796), prologue, n.p. According to José Babini (Historia de la ciencia argentina [Mexico City-Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1949], p. 16), the skeleton was unearthed during the first half of 1787 by Manuel Torres, a Dominican born in the town of Luján. Two sheets of drawings of “the megatherium of the Luxan River” were published by Francisco Barras de Aragón, “Un dibujo del megaterio del río Luxan,” Ciencias, 11 (1946), 77–85; these are very crude copies of Bru's engravings.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Garriga, Descripción, prologue, n.p.; Georges Cuvier, “Sur le Megatherium. Autre animal de la famille des Paresseux, mais de la taille du Rhinocéros, dont un squelette fossile presque complet est conservé au cabinet royal d'histoire naturelle à Madrid,” Ann. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat., 5 (1804), 376–387.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    GeorgesCuvier, “Noticia...del esqueleto de una especie de quadrúpedo grandísimo desconocido hasta ahora, que se halló en el Paraguay, y que se conserva en el Gabinete de Historia Natural de Madrid,” in Garriga, Descripción, pp. 17–20; French original: “Notice sur le squelette d'une trèsgrand espèce de Quadrupède inconnue jusqu'à présent, trouvé au Paraguay, et déposé au Cabinet d'Histoire naturelle de Madrid,” Mag. Encyclop., 2me année, 1 (1796), 303–310. M. J. S. Rudwick comments on this episode without any mention of Bru: “Cuvier had scarcely begun the series of detailed anatomical studies that were to justify these principles, when the National Institute received from Madrid some unpublished engravings of a giant fossil animal that had been sent there from Paraguay. Cuvier was instructed to report on them, and announced not only that the animal was new to science and almost certainly extinct — which was already suspected — but also that this rhinoceros-sized creature had belonged to the same family as the humble sloth” (The Meaning of Fossils [New York: American Elsevier 1972], pp. 104–105). Rudwick reproduces (p. 106) the copy of Bru's engraving of the cranium of Megatherium that Roume had given Cuvier, with the caption “Animal du Paraguay.” Rudwick cites neither Cuvier's later work on the Megatherium (above, n. 29), nor the French translation of Bru's study, with all its engravings, that appeared in the Annales in 1804 (below, n. 39), nor the reprinting of Bru's study in Cuvier's Recherches of 1812 (see below, n. 42).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Garriga, Descripción, prologue, n.p.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Ibid., pp. i–xvii.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Juan Bautista Bru, “Descripción del esqueleto en particular, según las observaciones hechas al tiempo de armarle y colocarle en este Real Gabinete,” in Garriga, Descripción, pp. 1–16, plates I–V.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ibid., p. 7.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ibid., p. 1.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Cuvier, “Noticia.” This text was also published in German as “Nachricht von dem Skelette einer sehr grossen Art von bisher unbekannten Vierfusser, welche in Paraguay gefunden und in das naturhistoriche Kabinett nach Madrid Gebracht ist,” Wiedemann's Arch. Zool. Zoot., 1 (1800), 208–215.Google Scholar
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    Cuvier, “Sur le Megatherium.”Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    See López Piñero et al., Diccionario histórico, I, 122, for information on the life and work of Bonpland, with bibliographical references.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Bru, “Description des os du Megatherium, faite en montant le squelette. ...traduite par M. Bonpland, et abrégée,” Ann. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat., 5, (1804), 395.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Bru, “Description des os du Megatherium, faite en montant le squelette. ...traduite par M. Bonpland, et abrégée,” Ann. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat., 5, (1804), p. 397.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    See C. Muñoz y Manzano, Condede Vinaza, Adiciones al Diccionario histórico de los más ilustres profesores de las bellas artes en España de D. Juan Ceán Bermúdez, 4 vols. (Madrid: Tipografía de los Huérfanos, 1889–94), II, 226–277; and Aldana, Guía abreviada, p. 169.Google Scholar
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    Georges Cuvier, Recherches sur les ossements fossiles de quadrupèdes où l'on rétablit les caractères de plusieurs espèces d'animaux que les révolutions du globe paroissent avoir détruites, 4 vols. (Paris; Deterville, 1812), IV, pt. 4, chap. 8, pp. 19–43.Google Scholar
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    Alan Moorehead, Darwin and the Beagle (London: Hamilton, 1969), p. 84.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    See F. Burkhardt and S. Smith, eds., The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 276.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Charles Darwin, Journal of Researches into the Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the World 2nd ed. (London: Colonial and Home Library, 1845).Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Barreiro, Museo Nacional, pp. 167–168.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • José M. López Piñero
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of the History of Science Faculty of MedicineUniversity of ValenciaValenciaSpain

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