Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brocktorff's Maltese fossils

Sir William Reid, Governor of Malta from 1851 to 1858, was a military official and amateur scientist whose interests eventually led him towards a study of meteorology and hurricanes. In a bid to encourage interest in the geology of the Maltese Islands, he published a book containing a few lithographs of fossils commissioned from an artist known only as 'Brocktorff' (Zammit Maempel, 2007).

This book remains very rare in libraries. In addition the well-known echinoids, Brocktorff illustrates remains of crustaceans (a crab), cartilaginous fish (the famous glossopetrae), and bony fish. The following are a some of the illustrated specimens, a few of which are in the National Museum of Natural History, Mdina.

'Schizaster Parkinsoni, Defrance' [*]

'Schizaster Desori, Wright' [**]

'Found at Casal -Luca-Krendi in the Year 1854' [***]

'Found near Casal Luca in the Year 1855'

'Shark's Tooth, with Stony Zoantharia - found near St. Thomas Tower, Malta' [****]

[*] Schizaster parkinsoni (Defrance, 1835)
[**] Schizaster desori Wright, 1855
[***] in contemporary Maltese: Casal Luca = Ħal-Luqa; Krendi = Qrendi
[****] St. Thomas' Tower, Marsaskala

References:

Reid, W., 1857. Maltese fossils lithographed for distribution with the view to encourage further investigation into the geology of the island. Malta: Valletta.
Zammit Maempel, G., 2007. Illustrators and their illustrations of Maltese fossils and Geology. Malta: Publishers' Enterprises Group Ltd.

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