Berlandier, Jean Louis, -1851. Jean Louis Berlandier papers, 1825-1855: A Guide.
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Call No.: gra00013
Repository: Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Botany Libraries, Harvard University
Creator: Berlandier, Jean Louis, -1851
Title: Jean Louis Berlandier papers
Quantity: 1 collection (1-8 in shared box AM, 9-12 in shared box AN, 13 is missing)
Language of materials: English
Berlandier's papers and collections were purchased by Darius N. Couch in 1853. Couch
gave the bulk of the documents to the Smithsonian Institution and offered the remainder
for purchase, however, the Smithsonian lacked sufficient funds. Spencer Fullerton
Baird, Curator at the Smithsonian, contacted Asa Gray to ask if the Gray Herbarium
would be interested. Kentucky botanist, Charles Wilkin Short, agreed to provide the
$400 for the collection and on July 6, 1854, Baird sent 75 cubic feet of botanical
specimens and a package of manuscripts and drawings to Gray.
Jean Louis Berlandier papers, Archives of the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University.
Other related material at the Botany Libraries, Harvard University Herbaria: Field
notes and plant identification records, approximately 1804-2000; Asa Gray correspondence
Jean Louis Berlandier was born into a poor family near Fort-de-l'Ecluse, France around
1805. At a young age he was apprenticed to a pharmacist in Geneva and studied Latin
and Greek in his spare time. He so impressed Augustin Pyramus de Candolle that the
botanist invited Berlandier to attend his classes and accompany him on excursions.
While studying with de Candolle, Berlandier also took the opportunity to learn about
drawing and painting from de Candolle's illustrator, Jean-Christophe Heyland.
Around 1824 de Candolle arranged for Berlandier to go to Mexico as botanist for the
Boundary Commission established by the Mexican government to survey the border between
Mexico and the United States. Berlandier arrived in Mexico at the end of 1826 and
after several months' delay the survey departed in November 1827. Berlandier collected
in Mexico and Texas for the next two years and ultimately sent around 55,000 dried
plants, seeds, insects, and other small animals back to Geneva. De Candolle was extremely
critical of the specimens, which he considered incomplete and poorly prepared.
Rather than defend himself against de Candolle's criticism, Berlandier chose to remain
in Mexico. He established himself as a pharmacist and doctor in Matamoros and continued
to study Mexican plants. He married a Mexican woman with whom he had several children.
Berlandier drowned in the summer of 1851 while crossing the San Fernando River.
Geiser SW. 1948. Naturalists of the frontier, 2nd ed. Dallas (TX): University Press.
Lawson RM. 2012. Frontier naturalist: Jean Louis Berlandier and the exploration of
Northern Mexico and Texas. Albuquerque (NM): University of New Mexico Press.
The collection is arranged in three series: Series I: Journals.
There are three packets of journal materials dealing with the years 1830-1831. There
is a fair amount of overlap in their contents. A fourth packet contains a brief, possibly
incomplete, account of an excursion to Fronton de Sa Isabel in 1845 and an account
of Berlandier's arrest and forced trip to Mexico City in 1849, while he was serving
as alcalde (mayor) of Matamoros. The materials appear to have been prepared with publication
in mind. It is not clear what portion of these journals are Berlandier's own work.
Arrangement may have been imposed by Sereno Watson. What appears to be a draft of a letter from Berlandier to Charles Mirbel at the Muséum
national d'histoire naturelle, Paris, dated December 20, 1838 was inserted in one
of the 1830-1831 journals. This is of particular interest because this letter is mentioned
by Alphonse de Candolle in a footnote to his father's memoirs (p. 337). De Candolle
emphasizes the long delay between this letter and Berlandier's original work in Mexico
and suggests that Berlandier had pretended to be dead out of shame. The draft indicates
that actually Berlandier had heard from Mirbel in 1833 and had written to him three
times since without receiving a response. Series II: Botanical Manuscripts. The botanical manuscripts fall into two groups: those written by Berlandier and those
written by others about his plants.
Manuscripts by Berlandier were bound into four volumes in somewhat haphazard arrangement.
This was likely done at the Gray Herbarium during Asa Gray's lifetime, as the bindings
use paper from American periodicals and bookplates in the bound volumes designate
them as gifts of Asa Gray. One of the four volumes has since been disbound. The major
sections of botanical notes are: about 750 pages containing descriptions of new plants,
arranged alphabetically by family; about 250 pages of notes on plants and their uses,
arranged alphabetically by family; and about 240 pages of descriptions of "Gramineas
de los contornos de Mexique." There are also 113 pages of illustrations, largely botanical,
by Lino Sánchez y Tapia and Berlandier; a manuscript of "Memoire sur la famille des
Grossulariees" and a manuscript of "Du mode de reproduction par fecondation de quelques
vegetaux de la famille des Campanulaiees," both written in Geneva; and several articles
pertaining to Mexican plants: "Nombres botanicos correspondientes a las denomiraciones
Mexicanas que Abate Clairgeno empone a los vegetales" (referred to as the Cervantes
mss), "Des plantes usuelles chez les Indiens du Mexique," and Boissons spiritueuses
retirees du Regne vegetal." Series III: Plant List. This series contains a list of Berlandier's plants prepared by M.E. Moricand and Alphonse
de Candolle, a manuscript by Asa Gray listing and describing plants in Berlandier's
collection, and a list by Ivan Murray Johnston of plants described by Berlandier in
"Memorias de las Comision de Limites…" There is also a letter from C.W. Short containing
excerpts from a lost de Candolle letter.
The Berlandier papers consist of several journals and autobiographical accounts; a
large, illustrated volume on plants of Mexico; several small botanical manuscripts,
including two from Berlandier's time in Geneva; a list of Berlandier's plants prepared
by Moïse Etienne Moricand and Alphonse de Candolle; and a manuscript about Berlandier's
plants prepared by Asa Gray.
- Series: I. Journals
- 1. "Matamoros to Monterey and return. Apr. 1-26th (1830) Matamoros to Tampico and S.
Fernando Oct. 14 - Feb. 23."
Scope and Contents: Loose manuscript in French, likely a draft cover note in Sereno Watson's handwriting.
Nest leaf begins narrative of trip to Monterey, 20 pages. Second section entitled
"Voyage de Matamoros a Tampico," 14 Oct -29 Nov , 59 pages. Third section
entitled "Diario de Viage Luis Berlandier 1830-1831," 3 Dec,1830-10 Dec 1830, 14 pages.
[Content similar to journal published in C.H. Muller's Journey to Mexico, corresponds
to pages 449-461 and 463-489. First section closer to the printed text than the rest.]
- 2. "Journal - Aug.13/30 - Feb. 28/31; Portions of it are variously repeated"
Date: 1830 August-1838 December 20
Scope and Contents: Loose manuscript in French, cover note in Sereno Watson's handwriting. First sheet
with note, "1830 About 14-28 Oct. journal." First sheet verso contains drafts of two
letters in Spanish. Second sheet with note "Journ: 1830 Aout 13-Sept," begins 23 Aug,
jumps to late Sept, continues through early Oct, 5 pages; second section entitled
"Voyage pour reconnoitre les principaux points de l'Etat de Tamaulipas," 14 Oct to
19 Nov, 63 pages, with map; third section entitled "Route de Tampico a Matamoros,"
29 Jan 1831 - 23 Feb 1831, 29 pages, with notes in margin which appear to be plant
numbers. Appears to be a draft of a letter from Berlandier to C.F.B. Mirbel, dated
20 Dec 1838.
- 3. "Diario de Tamaulipas No. 1, Nota de F.A.Q. sobre Geografia de Tamaulipas [scratched
out], Diario de Tarnava y Berlandier en Tamaulipas," additional note in pencil in
Sereno Watson's hand, "1830 Oct 14 - Nov. 14"
Date: 1830 October 14-November 14
Scope and Contents: Manuscript in Spanish, 28 pages, folded into signature and sewn together; 14 Oct 1830
to 14 Nov 1830, plant numbers in margins. Loose leaf with "Itineraria" and "Camino"
from Santillana. Accompanying loose materials in French, 9 pages, starts mid-sentence,
dated 29 Oct. Both may be drafts. "Tarnava" likely refers to don Constatino Tarnava,
of the Corps of Engineers on the Commission, according to C.H. Muller.
- 4. "1845. Excursion au Fronton de Sa Isabel. 1849. Matamoros to Mexico."
Date: 1845 July 4-1850 January 8
Scope and Contents: Possibly incomplete manuscript in French with signatures stitched together but not
formally bound; title note in Sereno Watson's handwriting. First section begins on
July 4, 1845, continues for five pages without further reference to date. Second section
begins November 1849, entitled "Chap. Prison, notification, escorte jusquala capitale
de l'etat; attentats du gouverneur [DN] Jesus Cardenas: Confiance de ce fonctionnaire
dans ses actes inconstitutionnels: Nullite de la comission permanente du congres -
reponse absurde de la supreme cour de justice: - Notre passepoart; retour a matamoros:
Remarques Meteorologiques sur Victoria de Tamaulipas," in French, dated 20 Nov 1849
to 8 Jan 1850, recounts Berlandier's arrest while serving as mayor of Matamoros.
- Series: II. Botanical manuscripts
- 5. "Memoire sur la famille des Grossulariées par J.L. Berlandier"
Date: approximately 1826
Scope and Contents: 16 pages, manuscript with 3 pages of illustrations and loose leaf of drawings; inscription
on first page in unknown handwriting, "Vu; bon pour imprimer dans Memoires de la soc.
de Phys. et d'Hist. G. Maurice... de la Comm d'...." Likely a manuscript for Berlandier's
1826 article published in "Memoires de la societe de physique et d'histoire naturelle
- 6. "Berlandier / Botanica I"
Scope and Contents: Bound volume in Latin and French; note on title page, "Botanica"; note on following
page, "Descripciones," 750 pages, first section contains descriptions of proposed
new genera and species arranged alphabetically by family from Amentaceae to Zygophylleae;
second section contains plants not assigned to families, characterized according to
Linnaean sexual system, 60 pages; third section entitled "Boissons spiritueuses retirees
du Regne vegetal," 2 pages, descriptions of four Mexican beverages in French; fourth
section, miscellaneous notes; fifth section entitled "Du mode de reproduction par
fecondation de quelques vegetaux de la famille des Campanulaiees, par J.L. Berlandier,
(Memoire lu a la societe de philosophie de Geneve dans sa seance du 27 Janvier 1825),"
4 pages; final section containing notes in French on the coyote and the note "Reponse
donnee le 5 Janvier 1851 au Samuel George Muton (?) de Philadelphia..."
- 7. "Berlandier / Botanica II"
Scope and Contents: Bound manuscripts; note on title page, "a estudiar en Viajes / Histoire Naturelle
des Plantes employees dans la matiere medicale les art etc. des Mexicains andiens
et modernes." First section entitled "Plantas a estudiar en Mexico," 3 pages, list.
Second section, 250 pages, notes on plants arranged alphabetically by family from
Amaryllideae to Qygophylleae with additional notes at the end; contains names, citations
of descriptions, habitat and use, occasional descriptions.
- 8. "Berlandier / Cervantes Mss"
Scope and Contents: Bound manuscripts; original title page removed and placed in Jane Gray's autograph
collection; substitute title page in Mary A. Day's hand read "Botanique. Nombre botanicos
correspondientes a las denominaciones Mexicanas que Abate Clairgeno empone a los vegetales.
Don. Vic. Jul. Cervantes dedit. Mexico 1827 extra Juan Luis Berlanier cum addendis,"
34 pages, in Spanish. [According to C.H. Muller, don Vicente Cervantes was a Spanish
Mexican doctor and botanist.] Second section entitled "Des plantes useuelles chez
les Indiens du Mexique," 11 pages, in French. Third section entitled "Gramineas de
los contornos de Mexico," 240 pages, mostly Latin. Gives names, descriptions, and
- 11. C.W. Short letter and "Pl. Berlandiereanae Ranuncul. - Compositae incl" manuscript
Scope and Contents: Letter from C.W. Short to A. Gray, Dec. 29,1854, containing translated excerpts from
a lost letter written by Alphonse de Candolle to Gray. Unpublished manuscript in Asa
Gray's hand titled "Pl. Berlandiereanae Ranuncul. - Compositae incl.," 80 pages, containing
of a list of plant names with Berlandier's numbers, location data, and some descriptions.
According to C.H. Muller, this contains "some twenty new species and two citations
of new genera that Berlandier had proposed in the 'Memorias de la comision de limites.'"