18 June 2009

James Barbut and his mating slugs

Free access to old books on the Internet (primarily thru Google Books, the Internet Archive and the Biodiversity Heritage Library) has saved me not only many trips to libraries, but also money and time I would have otherwise spent at photocopy machines.

James Barbut was a British painter and naturalist who was active in the 1780s; he published 2 books, one on insects and the other on Vermes or worms, which, back then, included all other invertebrates.

That's more or less everything we know about Barbut.

A little more than a year ago, while searching Google Books for the occurrences of the name of the slug Limax maximus, I discovered a full copy of Barbut's worm book* The genera Vermium exemplified by various specimens of the animals contained in the orders of the Intestina et Mollusca Linnaei. In his book, Barbut had a few pages of information on the 4 slug species he knew of, including a brief but surprisingly accurate explanation of how they mate. As I was reading that section, it dawned on me that Barbut's account was one of the earliest published descriptions of the aerial mating of Limax maximus.

Subsequenly, I turned all of that into a short paper that came out in the March 2009 issue of Mollusc World, the magazine of the Conchological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. My copy arrived only a few days ago.

A pdf version of the paper is here.

BarbutLimax
Barbut's Limax maximus.

I will appreciate receiving any further biographical information on James Barbut.


*An earlier edition is available at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From the e-publication 2400 Years of Malacology:

Barbut, James (17**-****; U.K.)
● An artist with a strong interest in natural history; author of The genera Vermium exemplified by various specimens of the animals contained in the orders of the
Intestina et Molusca Linnaei, a two-part work, published in 1783 (Part 1) and 1788 (Part 2). An edition of 1794 is reproduced,
only in part, at: http://books.google.com

Obviously, not much is known about him.