Abstract The 200th anniversary of the discovery of the silicified tree fern Tubicaulis solenites has provided an opportunity to examine the discovery and long-term collection history of this fossil, and to cast light on the location of the various fragments into which the specimen had been cut. So far, the species has been recorded only from the Gückelsberg quarry at Flöha (Germany). During the investigations it emerged that parts of the original specimen had been distributed to several collections worldwide; after almost two years of research, we can say that several fragments of this find are identifiable in European collections and beyond. This study of T. solenites aims to contribute to the history of European natural science in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, by exploring an extensive network of local and professional collectors that has existed since the time of its discovery. The year 2015 marked the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the fossil tree fern Tubicaulis solenites (Sprengel 1828) Cotta 1832 (Fig. 1). The specimen, which remains the only one of its kind known worldwide, was discovered by Heinrich Adolph Leberecht Schippan (1794–1837) in 1815, in a quarry in Gückelsberg near Flöha (south-east Germany, Fig. 2). The quarry was driven into the Schweddey-Ignimbrite, a 310 ± 2 million-year-old, feldspar-rich pyroclastic rock in the Flöha Basin, characterized by coal-forming macrofloras including silicified trunks.1 The Flöha Basin represents a small part of a much larger complex of Variscan intramontane basin structures in Central Europe; it originated and was filled up by sedimentary and volcanic deposits during Carboniferous to Permian times. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Some fragments of the fossil tree fern Tubicaulis solenites (Sprengel) Cotta found by Heinrich Adolph Leberecht Schippan (1794–1837) in 1815 at Gückelsberg, near Flöha. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Some fragments of the fossil tree fern Tubicaulis solenites (Sprengel) Cotta found by Heinrich Adolph Leberecht Schippan (1794–1837) in 1815 at Gückelsberg, near Flöha. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Repositories where fragments of the T. solenites have been found: 1 Chemnitz, 2 Freiberg, 3 Dresden, 4 Berlin, 5 St Petersburg, 6 Stockholm, 7 London, 8 Strasbourg, and 9 Lucknow. The Strasbourg fragments are regarded as lost, probably due to a fire, and some of the fragments from Freiberg are also lost, but probably still available in Lucknow. The lines show the distribution of T. solenites specimens. The broken line marks the route via St Petersburg (Leningrad) after the World War ii. Flöha is situated between Chemnitz and Freiberg. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Repositories where fragments of the T. solenites have been found: 1 Chemnitz, 2 Freiberg, 3 Dresden, 4 Berlin, 5 St Petersburg, 6 Stockholm, 7 London, 8 Strasbourg, and 9 Lucknow. The Strasbourg fragments are regarded as lost, probably due to a fire, and some of the fragments from Freiberg are also lost, but probably still available in Lucknow. The lines show the distribution of T. solenites specimens. The broken line marks the route via St Petersburg (Leningrad) after the World War ii. Flöha is situated between Chemnitz and Freiberg. The petrified fern trunk, a few decimetres long and broken into several pieces, is of central importance for the understanding of the developmental history of early tree ferns. Not surprisingly, the piece has formed the subject of numerous palaeobotanical monographs, and featured in many textbooks.2 To this day the fossil continues to play a key role in our understanding of the evolutionary development of ferns.3 Recently, evidence has emerged that the fossil must be attributed to the Pennsylvanian period and not the Permian, as has been assumed for the past 200 years.4 The extensive evidence surviving for its collection and documented history has encouraged recent studies, and has triggered both new field work and new analyses and radiometric dating of the volcanic source rock. The fragmentary trunk had been sawn into numerous transverse and longitudinal sections and distributed among different collections worldwide – quite a common practice in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The three largest fragments, at least, were believed to be well preserved as part of the former Werner collection at the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg (Germany), and to be available for palaeontological research. As early as 1825, Schippan reported that he had only a little left from one piece, which he had retrieved from the spoil-heap after the main excavation; evidently he distributed fragments separated from this piece to several research centres and to friends, but unfortunately no specific details survive. The Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum) in Chemnitz devised a plan to bring together the widely-scattered fragments of T. solenites and to present them in a special exhibition (Fig. 3), a task that proved, however, to be a difficult one. After almost two years of research, it may be stated that it was possible to identify several fragments of the T. solenites once recovered from the spoil-heap of the Gückelsberg quarry as surviving in European and even non-European collections (Fig. 2), but that the trail of the largest and most important pieces of the fossil is now lost in India. To our surprise, we had to conclude that of the three lower pieces that Schippan once proudly brought to his academic mentor Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749–1817) and which entered the ‘Wernersche Museo zu Freyberg’, not one can now be found in Freiberg. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide The Museum für Naturkunde in Chemnitz brought together the widely-scattered fragments of T. solenites and presented them in the scope of a special exhibition. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide The Museum für Naturkunde in Chemnitz brought together the widely-scattered fragments of T. solenites and presented them in the scope of a special exhibition. The trail of the former samples was traced with the aid of labels, inconspicuous pencil notes and old catalogues to Freiberg, Chemnitz, Berlin, Stockholm, and London. During an eventful 200-year history, individual slices, thin sections and cuttings reached – sometimes via curious detours – the palaeontological collections of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, the Senckenberg Natural History Collections (Museum für Mineralogie und Geologie) in Dresden, the Schreckenbach collection at the Museum für Naturkunde in Chemnitz, the Cotta and Nindel collections at the Museum für Naturkunde of the Humboldt University of Berlin, the collection of the Natural History Museum in London, the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Naturhistoriska riksmuseet) in Stockholm, and the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany in Lucknow, India. It turned out that the discovery history of T. solenites linked numerous famous palaeobotanists, geologists and collectors, including Werner, Sprengel, Cotta, Stenzel, Schreckenbach, Brown, Solms-Laubach, Bertrand, Sterzel, Beck, and Sahni. Even war-related detours have been reconstructed. Interestingly, several institutions traditionally claimed to have the type material in their collections, although Carl Bernhardt von Cotta in his original work referred explicitly only to the Freiberg pieces of the former Werner collection and the two figured pieces from the collection of his father (Fig. 4).5 Today, the specimen in Cotta’s pl. ii, fig. 3 is located in the Cotta collection of the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. The specimen figured at pl. ii, fig. 1 is probably only a part of a transverse section, which cannot be assigned to any one of the sections with complete certainty.6 Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Cotta’s Dendrolithen: doctoral dissertation featuring T. solenites and one of the first scientific descriptions of this specimen, displayed in a cabinet in the Museum für Naturkunde Chemnitz. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Cotta’s Dendrolithen: doctoral dissertation featuring T. solenites and one of the first scientific descriptions of this specimen, displayed in a cabinet in the Museum für Naturkunde Chemnitz. A unique discovery The journey began in 1815 in a quarry at Gückelsberg near Flöha. Schippan described his discovery in detail: Die Länge des vorgefundenen Stückes betrug 1 Elle,7und war am oberen Ende 5 Zoll am unteren aber fast 8 Zoll im Durchmesser. Mehrerer Querklüfte wegen war es schon beim Gewinnen in mehrere ziemlich gleich große Stücke abgeteilt, deren Länge im Durchschnitte 8 Zoll betrug. Nach Angabe der, im Bruche damals arbeitenden, Steinmetzen, hatten sich nach oben zu mehrere dergleichen Stücke vorgefunden, die zusammen einen, gleichsam gegliederten Stamm bildeten; indes hatte man nicht besonders darauf geachtet, sondern alles unter den Schutt geworfen . . . Die Lage des Stammes im Gestein war nicht senkrecht, sondern etwa 45 Grad gegen den Horizont geneigt.8 Seventy-four years after Schippan’s discovery, Carl Gustav Stenzel (1826–1905) managed to gather most of the parts of T. solenites for palaeobotanical studies; he confirmed Schippan’s conclusions. As a whole, the results of his searches were considerable: a specimen of around 25 kg in weight and with a length of 50 cm, which diminishes from a diameter of about 18 cm at the lower end to about 12 cm at the top.9 Recent investigation of the T. solenites fragments that remain accessible today enabled them to be put respectively into their anatomically correct positions in the stem, and the fossil fern to be reconstructed (Fig. 5).10 Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide A current reconstruction showing the surviving fragments of T. solenites in their anatomically correct positions in the trunk. At the bottom right is the historic photograph, which shows the three Werner pieces including the supporting lowermost part of the fourth piece. That at bottom left is figured by Stenzel in his publication 1889. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide A current reconstruction showing the surviving fragments of T. solenites in their anatomically correct positions in the trunk. At the bottom right is the historic photograph, which shows the three Werner pieces including the supporting lowermost part of the fourth piece. That at bottom left is figured by Stenzel in his publication 1889. The three lower pieces from Werner’s collection in Freiberg Unfortunately, nothing from the three lower pieces presented by Schippan to Werner can be found in Freiberg today.11 The individual, partial collections belonging to Werner (minerals, fossils, molluscs, etc.) were distributed to different collections of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg; the fossils went to the palaeontological collection. In preparing his 1889 publication, Stenzel traced these three pieces at Freiberg and set them together as a whole for the first time.12 Additionally, he mentioned a part of a connecting fourth piece, which fitted on top of the uppermost of the three lower pieces, but did not figure the latter.13 The aforementioned transverse and longitudinal sections made from the lower end of the fourth piece, are today preserved in London, Berlin, and Dresden. A historic photograph (Fig. 5, bottom right), which shows the three Werner pieces including the supporting lowermost part of the fourth piece was first published in 2001;14 it originates from a photo album in the palaeobotanical library of the Museum für Naturkunde Chemnitz, which the French palaeobotanist Paul Charles Édouard Bertrand (1879–1944) of Lille left to Johann Traugott Sterzel (1841–1914), after anatomical studies had been conducted on several ferns from the Permian of Chemnitz. This valuable photograph seems to remain to date the only visual representation of the main parts of the T. solenites. The two discovered sections in Freiberg and one thin section preparation definitely do not belong to the three Werner pieces but to the fourth piece.15 The Freiberg records carry two numerations, an old number 1a-1d and a newer 175/1a or 175/1b. The thin section has no new number, only the old 1a. Sections belonging to the old numbers 1b and 1c are missing, whereas 1d-1e are available. The historical label belonging to 175/1b creates confusion: the note ‘Zum grossen 3 teiligen Stücke 1a-e gehörig’ first suggests that 175/1b should belong to one of the three Werner specimens, but this is not the case. Also, the assumption that the numbers 1b to 1e would identify the three Werner specimens is incorrect. The confusion became even greater as a T. solenites cross-section, including a label with the number 1f, was discovered in Stockholm. According to Stenzel, the lowermost of the three pieces is significantly enlarged and comes from near the base of the aerial root mantle.16 The top piece shows a funnel-shaped deepening at its upper end.17 The two sections found in Freiberg today turned out to be counterparts to those now in Berlin and London. Therefore, only the lower conical end of the fourth piece and a longitudinal section, which originally could not have been in Freiberg, now remained there. Whereas its Berlin counterpart had already been figured by Cotta, Stenzel wrote only about the three Werner specimens and the lower conical specimen of the fourth piece in Freiberg.18 On the other hand, he makes no mention of this lower specimen (today’s Freiberg no. 175/1a), but discusses instead the Berlin transverse section of the fourth piece. The safekeeping of the two pieces 175/1a and 175/1b that remained in Freiberg and the thin section in cabinet 42/B of the collection are certainly recorded on a file card from 5 June 1967 in the palaeontological collection of the TU Bergakademie in Freiberg. The fourth piece and its fragments, therefore, provide evidence of a never-before mentioned fifth piece. It was Schippan himself who explained that he had only a little remaining from the fourth, later-found upper piece from the heap, because he had given the fragments to several natural history societies and friends. That was in 1825. In 1889, Stenzel wrote that the magnificent transverse section in the Cotta collection at the museum in Berlin and additional specimens in the Schreckenbach collection at the city museums in Chemnitz and Leipzig, as well as smaller pieces in Dresden and in some other collections, indisputably come from the fourth piece.19 Today, the smaller pieces belong to the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden.20 The Chemnitz section is preserved in the permanent exhibition of the Chemnitz Museum für Naturkunde, having previously entered the Schreckenbach collection, which had been given to the former Natural History Collections in Chemnitz by Schippan’s widow.21 However, the Chemnitz specimen proves to be an upper end piece and hence not one of the three Werner specimens, nor part of the fourth piece that is now limited by end pieces. As a result, the Chemnitz end piece has to be from a so-far unmentioned fifth piece! Since Schippan further wrote that several similar pieces were discovered towards the top, it may be assumed that at least one more of these pieces had been retrieved.22 Furthermore, in Chemnitz can be found one thin section of unclear origin, and five thin sections manufactured by the company Fuess, in Berlin.23 The search for the Leipzig specimen mentioned by Stenzel is more difficult.24T. solenites can be found neither at the local Naturkundemuseum, nor at the Geological Survey that was formerly located in Leipzig, nor at the collections of the Geological Institute or the Botanical Institute of Leipzig University. The thin section preparation in Freiberg gives another hint. The associated historical label reads: ‘Schnitt von dem Freiberger Stück. Durch Herrn Graf Solms erhalten. 1882’. Bertrand also referred to the Count Solms-Laubach collection in his thesis, ‘Section transversale d’une fronde peu éloignée du stipe. Collect. de Solms. Préparat. n 89’, and illustrated the pieces.25 Therefore, a piece of T. solenites with the original collection number 89 in the collection of Hermann Maximilian Carl Ludwig Friedrich, Graf zu Solms-Laubach (1842–1915), should be in Strasbourg (France). Already Stenzel figured two thin sections of T. solenites from the collection Count Solms-Laubach.26 Unfortunately, an enquiry in Strasbourg regarding such a specimen produced no results. Jean-Pierre Laveine, Geological Museum of Lille, indicated that a fire at the Geological Institute of Strasbourg in the 1960s could provide an explanation for the loss.27 In 1832, Carl Bernhard von Cotta finished his Master’s thesis in Freiberg (which is, unexpectedly, identical to his doctoral thesis of the same year in Heidelberg!) concerning the Flöha Tubicaulis from the extensive fossil wood collection of his father, Johann Heinrich Cotta.27 He had put together a fossil collection unique for that time, attracting the attention of palaeontologists during his lifetime. After his death, in 1845, parts of his collection ended up at the Mineralogical Museum of the Berlin University, acquired at a cost of 3,000 Thaler by Alexander von Humboldt.28 Regarding T. solenites, C. B. von Cotta noted, ‘Kleinere Exemplare sind in der Sammlung meines Vaters zu finden.’29 According to that statement, Johann Heinrich Cotta could not have received only one section from Schippan, unless he had cut it. Anton Sprengel (1803–1850) had mentioned the Cotta collection before: on the one section of the T. solenites later examined by him, he wrote, ‘Eximium exemplar vidi in collect. Cottan. (no. 199).’30 With the number 199, a fossil wood ‘v. Gückelsberg b. Flöhe’ is mentioned in an older version of the catalogue of the Cotta collection.31 A later version of the handwritten catalogue (Fig. 6), signed by C. B. von Cotta on 27 January 1845, mentions T. solenites with number 2993.32 In the same section, it is said that: ‘478–523 Sämtliche in B. Cottas Schrift über die Dendrolithen abgebildeten Exemplare, welche deßhalb einer näheren Bezeichnung nicht bedürfen.’ Cotta figured two different sections of T. solenites in his work.33 A visit to the Berlin collection revealed that one of the Cotta originals, Cotta 1832: pl. ii, fig. 3, is preserved there, as confirmed by comparison with Cotta’s fig. 3.34 Together with one of the rare Cotta original labels, the piece with the Cotta number 2993 has also been found.35 It is the transverse section mentioned in Stenzel that Süss and Rangnow referred to as being lost.36 For decades, the piece evidently was kept only one street number away, at Invalidenstraße 44, the former Preußische Geologische Landesanstalt and later Zentrales Geologisches Institut. However, this is not the entire story of the Berlin originals. During World War ii, the most valuable museum items of the Geologisch-Palaeontologisches Institut (belonging at that time to the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität) and the former Preußische Geologische Landesanstalt, as well as the majority of the originals of the palaeontological collection had been relocated into an underground chalk mine near Rüdersdorf.37 After the war, the museum items were taken to Leningrad by the Red Army. In 1958 they were given back to the German Democratic Republic, but the T. solenites specimen did not reach the Cotta collection at the Museum für Naturkunde (Invalidenstraße 43) before 2008.38 It remained unintentionally stored at the Zentrales Geologisches Institut (Invalidenstraße 44) in Berlin. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide A version of the handwritten catalogue related to the Cotta collection, signed by B. Cotta on 27 January 1845. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide A version of the handwritten catalogue related to the Cotta collection, signed by B. Cotta on 27 January 1845. Süss and Rangnow further reported a fragment that went to Berlin with the collection of Friedrich Nindel (1887–1960), pharmacist and private collector, purchased in 1961.39 This 2 mm-thick section, cut from the lower conical end of the Freiberg piece 175/1a, is also present in Berlin today.40 Furthermore, the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden still has seven tiny remaining sections thanks to Nindel, according to a historical label. At least some of these sections show great similarity to the thin sections at the Museum für Naturkunde in Chemnitz. However, it is not completely clear when Nindel acquired these Tubicaulis pieces; he had, unfortunately, unlimited access to the collections in Chemnitz after Sterzel’s death. What happened to the piece no. 199, as referred to by Sprengel, remains unclear; the same is true for the old Cotta catalogue. The trail leads to London Johann Heinrich Cotta’s collection attracted a number of eminent visitors to his home at Tharandt, to the south-west of Dresden. In 1837, several geologists, botanists and palaeontologists took part in a meeting of German natural scientists and physicians in Prague, among them J. H. Cotta and C. B. von Cotta.41 At the meeting the German botanist and palaeontologist Heinrich Robert Göppert (1800–1884) expressed thanks to ‘meine(m) Freund, Herrn Oberforstrath Cotta in Tharandt’,42 from whom he had obtained some pieces of petrified wood. Following the conference, Johann Jacob Nöggerath (1788–1877), Christian Leopold von Buch (1774–1853) and Jean-Baptiste Armand Louis Léonce Élie de Beaumont (1798–1874) visited J. H. and C. B. von Cotta.43 Both von Buch and Élie de Beaumont were members of the Royal Society of London, and this may have prompted the idea for a visit to London, which C. B. von Cotta later undertook.44 For the exact date of his visit a hint is given in an old English catalogue. There it was noted: During a short visit to London, he [C. B. von Cotta] made the acquaintance of the botanist Robert Brown, and, on his return to Saxony . . . became the intermediary between the British Museum and his father, with the result that, in 1839, half of the latter’s collection, containing several of the figured specimens, was bought by the Trustees.45 The Cotta family sold an important part of their father’s collection in 1839 to London. In 1845, a year after J. H. Cotta’s death, the supposed originals were again sold to Berlin by the obviously enterprising sons.46 Apparently, only one fragment of T. solenites was originally given to London, so in 1886 it was still said that ‘A portion of specimen figured by Cotta in his “Dendrolithen” (pl. ii, fig. 3) is contained in the Collection.’47 According to this statement, it seemed to be clear which piece had ended up in London and that it could not be a complete transverse section, since Cotta’s fig. 3 is a longitudinal section.48 However, an enquiry at the Natural History Museum London revealed further pieces of T. solenites – two longitudinal sections, and two complete transverse sections in total.49 One longitudinal and one transverse section each carry a ‘v’ in front of the collection number, probably for ‘Vegetables’, and a glued label on the specimens with the note ‘Bequeathed by Robert Brown, 1858’. That designation leads back to the Scottish botanist Robert Brown (1773–1858). Brown dealt, among other things, with Cycads, and published 1827 the first description of the fundamental difference between angiosperms and gymnosperms.50 Brown was a collector himself. On the initiative of the botanist Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820) of London, Brown took part in an expedition to Australia from 1801 to 1805. There he gathered almost 4,000 hitherto largely unknown plant species. In 1820 Sir Joseph Banks died, and . . . left the library and the collections . . . to Robert Brown for his life, stipulating that when he should die they should be transferred to the British Museum. Brown resigned the Librarianship of the Linnean Society in the same year. In 1827 Brown assented to the transfer of the Banksian library and collections to the British Museum.51 Brown looked after the botanical collection at the British Museum as Keeper of Botany from 1827 until his death. He belonged to the Linnean Society, of which he was president from 1849 to 1853. On the other hand, Brown owned an extensive private collection – a herbarium that included nearly 3,900 species.52 Concerning Brown’s palaeobotanical activities Green wrote: Among his minor papers may be mentioned a description of a silicified fossil to which he gave the name Triplosporites, and which he held to be closely related to Lepidostrobus. This was, however, a field in which he made few observations. He was always strongly attached to it, however, and with a view to its prosecution he made an extensive collection of fossil woods, which he bequeathed to the British Museum.53 This is the so far only known hint of Brown’s own collection of fossil woods. It seems possible that he integrated a longitudinal and a cross-section of the T. solenites into his private collection. There is, however, no direct evidence even in the old biographies concerning him, and specifically no connection to either Schippan or Cotta.54 Recently R. J. Cleevely has stated that the material from Cotta’s collection in the Natural History Museum in London arrived there through through a friendship between C. B. von Cotta and Brown.55 The two longitudinal sections in London, together with the Berlin longitudinal section and that from Freiberg, form a complete transverse section. The section nhm 13604 was probably brought to London personally by Cotta in 1839, since it directly fits with the Berlin original and does not carry a ‘v’ in the collection number. The origin of the other three London sections, especially the Brown piece v 5469, remains a mystery: possibly they formed part of Brown’s private collection, which he bequeathed to the British botanist John Joseph Bennett (1801–1876). Bennett succeeded Brown as Keeper of Botany. On Bennett’s death in 1876, the British Museum took possession of Brown’s herbarium56 and probably as a part of it the collection of fossil woods including two or three pieces of T. solenites. One of the longitudinal sections carries a Cotta original label falsely designating it as Tubicaulis primarius.57 The Stockholm cross-section The cross-section at the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Naturhistoriska riksmuseet) in Stockholm testifies to the increasingly wide dispersal of Tubicaulis pieces that must have started after around 1910. There, a delivery of fifty-seven Carboniferous/Permian fossils and one Tertiary fossil from Freiberg is recorded in a handwritten catalogue entry of 6 April 1918. The annual report of the same year mentions the delivery of fifty-eight valuable fossils which were sent to Stockholm in exchange for minerals by Richard Beck (1858–1919) from Freiberg. Although T. solenites is nowhere explicitly mentioned, a piece of evidence is provided by a catalogue from 1925, where the collection number s.3330 is connected to the note ‘Tyskland, diverse lokaler’. A search of the Stockholm accession books, surviving without a break since 1918, showed that the delivery of 1918 is the only one from Freiberg in the period in question. There is no doubt that the label of the Stockholm piece is a Freiberg label: indeed, ‘Nr. 1f, zu Nr. 1a-e’ is noted in Beck’s handwriting. The latter refers to the numeration of the Werner specimens, so that it is proven that Beck sent a cross-section of the T. solenites to Sweden on 6 April 1918, along with other specimens. T. solenites at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany in Lucknow The Stockholm cross-section did not remain intact. The back of the accompanying label documents the shipment of a slice cut from the latter to ‘Prof. Sahni Lucknow’ on 1 October 1948. Birbal Sahni (1891–1949), Fellow of the Royal Society, was a well-known Indian botanist and a pioneer of palaeobotanical research in India. Sahni had made several trips to various countries all over the world. During his tour of Europe in 1929, he visited several European collections in England, France and Germany to study fossil ferns in particular and collected some specimens from the widely scattered material he encountered for further investigation.58 Among other places, he visited Berlin and London.59 Sahni was working on a variety of late Palaeozoic fern studies (Zygopteris, Grammatopteris, Ankyropteris), including those from Flöha and Chemnitz, and on the whereabouts of the widely scattered individual pieces.60 At the time of his death he had envisaged an additional project on the late Paleozoic ferns Tubicaulis and Psaronius, for which he was then gathering material.61 Sahni’s connection to the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, is made clear through the statement by the Swedish botanist and palaeobotanist T. G. Halle (1884–1964): ‘Only a few days before his (Sahni’s) death, he was elected as President of the International Botanical Congress to be shortly held at Stockholm.’62 Today, in any case, the section cut from the Stockholm fragment is incorporated into the walling at the lower-left corner of the foundation of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany in Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, together with seventy-seven other fossil woods. The collection was assembled by Sahni starting in 1946 and the foundation stone was dedicated to the Indian premier, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964), and inaugurated in his presence on 3 April 1949. Some seventeen years earlier, Sahni must have received fragments of T. solenites from Chemnitz, as he sent thanks for some small pieces of T. solenites in a letter to Nindel of 7 May 1931, questioning again how Nindel had taken possession of them.63 Sahni described them as very valuable to his collection and expressed the conviction that, without them, his students would not have had the opportunity of close study of this important type of fern. On the back of one of the labels in Freiberg, belonging to the original Freiberg (Werner) pieces that disappeared, is a handwritten pencil note: ‘an Sahni gesandt, Nov. 1932’. Who sent it and for what reason is unrecorded. Moreover, it remains unclear where Sahni was in November 1932 – whether the Werner pieces were sent directly to India or to one of his temporary addresses in Europe, but at least this indication also points to India. On 10 April 1949, a few days after the foundation stone of his institute had been laid, Sahni suddenly died. The pieces – at least those which had been borrowed – were never returned. Interestingly, the cross-section in the foundation stone of the Lucknow Institute, cut from the Stockholm cross-section, corresponds to the first drawing of T. solenites as compiled by Schippan (Fig. 7).64 Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide The Stockholm transverse section; drawing composed by Schippan in 1824. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide The Stockholm transverse section; drawing composed by Schippan in 1824. With Sahni’s letter to Nindel of 7 May 1931, the note on the Freiberg label (from November 1932), and the note on the Stockholm label of 1 October 1948, there are three lines of evidence for the transfer of T. solenites fragments to Lucknow. How much material from T. solenites remains in Lucknow today is unclear: several enquiries and personal visits have proved less than satisfactory. It is certain that two more fragments, which undoubtedly originated from the three Werner specimens of Freiberg, are now in the publicly accessible area of the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany. At least one piece of the Werner specimens, once sent to Sahni from Freiberg, must have been sawn up in Lucknow. Conclusion Our research has brought to light the extensive 200-year collection history of the unique individual of the tree fern Tubicaulis solenites (Sprengel) Cotta. Fragments of T. solenites have been successfully traced in London, Stockholm, Berlin, Dresden, Chemnitz, Freiberg, and Lucknow. Some of them – unfortunately not the pieces in India – were borrowed for a special exhibition and for research purposes at the Museum für Naturkunde in Chemnitz. On this occasion it proved possible to reconstruct the original positions of the individual pieces in the stem. Additionally, in the course of research it was ascertained that not four but at least five pieces of the former stem, broken into several individual pieces, must have entered European and non-European collections. Provenance research provided new directly relevant palaeontological insights. Moreover, it was possible to reveal both the figured specimens of this unique fossil fern and their respective present-day repositories. Although several pieces of T. solenites remain available in public collections, the longitudinal section figured by Cotta, now in Berlin, appears to be the only piece of the type material, originally figured by Cotta. Unfortunately, over the course of our work, we discovered that parts of the unique Werner pieces once lent to Sahni in Lucknow had been built into a concrete foundation, and that additional pieces in the Lucknow collection are effectively lost for current research purposes – or at least they were inaccessible to us despite intensive efforts. Under these circumstances, one can only hope that one day the pieces may be returned to their legal owner, the Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg. At the same time, provenance research on T. solenites contributes to the history of European science in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, by bringing together an extensive Europe-wide network among local collectors that has existed for 200 years, including Schippan, J. H. Cotta, Schreckenbach, and Nindel, and geologists/palaeobotanists, such as Werner, Sprengel, C. B. von Cotta, Stenzel, Brown, Solms-Laubach, Bertrand, Sterzel, Beck, and Sahni. Acknowledgements For many useful discussions and comments we would like to thank Prof. Dr Manfred Barthel, Dr Stephan Schultka and Catrin Puffert, Berlin; Dr Deepa Agnihotri and Dr Annamraju Rajanikanth, Lucknow; Dr Birgit G. Gaitzsch, Freiberg; Dr Stephen McLoughlin and Ove Johansson, Stockholm; Dr Peta Hayes, Dr Paul Kenrick and Naomi Moran Luengo, London; Dr Lutz Kunzmann, Dresden; Frank Bach, Leipzig; Shirin Khalil, Responsable de médiation scientifique, Strasbourg; Prof. Dr Jean-Pierre Laveine, Lille; Prof. Dr Hans Kerp, Münster; and last but not least the anonymous referee. The authors are indebted to Sascha Bendel, Chemnitz, for proofreading the manuscript. This research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (dfg grant ro 1273/3-1 to rr) and additionally supported by the Museum für Naturkunde Chemnitz and the Senckenberg Naturhistorische Sammlungen Dresden. Footnotes 1 F. Löcse, J. Meyer, R. Klein, U. Linnemann, J. Weber and R. Rößler, ‘Neue Florenfunde in einem Vulkanit des Oberkarbons von Flöha – Querschnitt durch eine ignimbritische Abkühlungseinheit’, Veröffentlichungen des Museums für Naturkunde Chemnitz 36 (Chemnitz, 2013), pp. 85–142. 2 Apart from the monographs quoted below, a selection of important historical textbooks including a description of T. solenites is given by the following: H. G. Bronn, Lethaea Geognostica oder Abbildungen und Beschreibungen der für die Gebirgsformationen bezeichnendsten Versteinerungen. Erster Band, das Übergangs- bis Oolithen-Gebirge enthaltend (Stuttgart, 1835–37), pp. 1–544; H. R. Göppert, Palaeontographica. Beiträge zur Naturgeschichte der Vorwelt. Die fossile Flora der Permischen Formation (Kassel, 1864), pp. 1–316, pls i–lxiv; D. H. Scott, Studies in Fossil Botany (London, 1909), pp. 1–683; F. O. Bower, The Ferns (Filicales), vol. i:Analytical Examination of the Criteria of Comparsion (London, 1923), pp. 1–359; F. O. Bower, The Ferns (Filicales), vol. ii:The Eusporangiatae and other relatively primitive ferns (London, 1926), pp. 1–344. 3 J. Galtier and T. L. Phillips, ‘Evolutionary and ecological perspectives of Late Paleozoic ferns, Part iii. Anachoropterid ferns (including Anachoropteris, Tubicaulis, the Sermayaceae, Kaplanopteridaceae and Psalixochlaenaceae)’, Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 205 (2014), pp. 31–73. 4 F. Löcse, U. Linnemann, G. Schneider, V. Annacker, T. Zierold and R. Rößler, ‘200 Jahre Tubicaulis solenites (Sprengel) Cotta. Sammlungsgeschichte, Paläobotanik & Geologie eines oberkarbonischen Baufarn-Unikats aus dem Schweddey-Ignimbrit vom Gückelsberg bei Flöha’, Veröffentlichungen des Museums für Naturkunde Chemnitz 38 (2015), pp. 5–46. 5 B. Cotta, Die Dendrolithen in Beziehung auf ihren inneren Bau (Dresden and Leipzig, 1832), pp. 1–89, pls 1–18. 6 In Löcse et al., op. cit. (note 4), p. 30, lines 26–7, the numbering ‘plate ii, fig. 1’ and ‘plate ii, fig. 3’ are reversed and the different statements there are therefore incorrect. 7 In ancient usage the units of measurement are: 1 Elle ≈ 57 cm, 1 Zoll ≈ 2.4 cm, 1 Elle = 2 Fuß = 24 Zoll. 8 ‘The length of the piece as found was 1 cubit and had a diameter of 5 inches at the upper end but almost 8 inches at the lower end. Due to several cross chasms, it was already divided into multiple more-or-less equally sized pieces with a diameter of 8 inches during the extraction. According to the quarrymen present at the time, several similar pieces had been found further up, together forming a stem of the same structure. However, no particular attention had been paid to these and they had been thrown away with the debris. . . . The position of the stem in the rock was not vertical but tilted at about 45 degrees to the horizon.’ H. A. L. Schippan, Beylage zu Heinrich Adolph Schippan’s in Sachsen aufgefundener und bis jetzt noch nirgends vorgekommener Art versteinerter Palme, welche im Quer- und Längen-Durchschnittsrisse ausführlich gezeichnet und lithographiert erschienen ist (Freiberg, 1825), pp. 1–6. 9 For a discussion on plant anatomy underlying the reconstruction see C. G. Stenzel, ‘Die Gattung TubicaulisCotta’,Bibliotheca Botanica, Abhandlungen aus dem Gesamtgebiete der Botanik 12 (1889), pp. 1–50, pls i–vii. 10 Löcse et al., op. cit. (note 4), pp. 40–42. 11 Schippan, op. cit. (note 8), pp. 3–4. 12 Stenzel, op. cit. (note 9). 13 Ibid., pl. i, fig. 2. 14 R. Rößler, ‘Vielfalt paläozoischer Baumfarne – eine bis heute lebende Erfindung der Natur’, in Der Versteinerte Wald von Chemnitz. Katalog zur Ausstellung Sterzeleanum, ed. R. Rößler (Chemnitz, 2001), pp. 78–99, at p. 87. 15 fg 175/1a, fg 175/1b; the cut does not have a new collection number. See Schippan, op. cit. (note 8), p. 4. 16 Stenzel, op. cit. (note 9). 17 Ibid., pl. i, fig. 1. 18 Cotta, op. cit. (note 5); Stenzel, op. cit. (note 9). 19 Stenzel, op. cit. (note 9), p. 6. 20 mmg sap 2532, mmg sap 2532; A (cut) mmg sap 2397 (seven small pieces in total, cut). 21 mfnc k4798. See J. T. Sterzel, ‘Die fossilen Pflanzen des Rothliegenden von Chemnitz in der Geschichte der Paläontologie’. Bericht der Naturwissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft zu Chemnitz 5 (Chemnitz, 1875), pp. 71–243, at p. 88. 22 Schippan, op. cit. (note 8), p. 4. 23 mfnc red 203. 24 Stenzel, op. cit. (note 9), p. 6. 25 P. Bertrand, Études sur la fronde des Zygoptéridées (Lille, 1909), pp. 1–306, pls i-xvi, 303 and plate xv, figs 106–7. 26 Stenzel, op. cit. (note 9), pl. ii, figs 12–13. 27 Personal communication, J.-P. Laveine, 2015. 28 O. Wagenbreth, ‘Bernhardt von Cotta. Leben und Werk eines deutschen Geologen im 19. Jahrhundert’, Freiberger Forschungshefte, d36 (Leipzig, 1965), pp. 1–134, at p. 26; H. Süss and P. Rangnow, ‘Die Fossiliensammlung Heinrich Cottas im Museum für Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’, Neue Museumskunde 27 (1984), pp. 17–30, at p. 24 29 M. Barthel, ‘Hat Goethe die Chemnitzer Kieselhölzer etwa nicht beachtet?’, in Der Versteinerte Wald von Chemnitz. Katalog zur Ausstellung Sterzeleanum, ed. R. Rößler (Chemnitz, 2001), pp. 18–27. 30 See Cotta, op. cit. (note 5), pp. 21–2. 31 D. A. Sprengel, Commentatio de Psarolithis, ligni fossilis genere (Halle, 1828), pp. 1–42, at pp. 32–3. 32 From an undated, handwritten, earlier version of the Cotta catalogue, archived at the Museum für Naturkunde of the Humboldt Universität of Berlin; author unknown. 33 B. Cotta, Allgemeiner Katalog der Cottaischen Verstein erungssammlung, Museum für Naturkunde, Humboldt-Universität Berlin (Tharandt, 1845), pp. 1–26, at p. 17. 34 See Cotta, op. cit. (note 5), pl. ii, fig. 1, 3. 35 mb.pb. 2014/0248; see Cotta, op. cit. (note 5). 36 mb.pb. 2009/0349. 37 Stenzel, op. cit. (note 9), p. 6; Süss and Rangnow, op. cit. (note 28). 38 K. Diebel, ‘Die paläontologischen Originale der Berliner Museen’, Paläontologische Zeitschrift 34 (1960), pp. 59–60. 39 Personal communication, M. Barthel, 2008. 40 Süss and Rangnow, op. cit. (note 28). 41 mb.pb. 2014/0249. 42 J. Nöggerath, Ausflug nach Böhmen und die Versammlung der deutschen Naturforscher und Aerzte in Prag im Jahre 1837. Aus dem Leben der Wissenschaft (Bonn, 1838), pp. 1–480, at p. 190. 43 ‘Versammlung der Naturforscher und Aerzte zu Prag im September 1837’, Isis (1838), Heft vii, pp. 473–620, at p. 495. 44 Nöggerath, op. cit. (note 42), pp. 455–7. 45 E. R. Lankester, The History of the Collections contained in the Natural History Department of the British Museum, vol. i (London, 1904), pp. 1–442, at p. 279–80; see also at p. 205. 46 J. H. Cotta had the four sons, Friedrich Wilhelm von Cotta (1796–1874), Friedrich August von Cotta (1799–1860), Karl Eduard Cotta (1803–1872) and Carl Bernhard von Cotta (1808–1879). The fifth son, Carl Emil Cotta, and a daughter, Mathilda Cotta, died shortly after birth. From A. Richter, Heinrich Cotta. Leben und Werk eines deutschen Forstmannes (Radebeul and Berlin, 1952), pp. 1–247. 47 R. Kidston, Catalogue of the Palaeozoic plants in the Department of Geology and Palaeontology, British Museum (Natural History) (London, 1886), pp. 1–288, at p. 11. 48 See Cotta, op. cit. (note 5). 49 nhm v5469, nhm 13604 (longitudinal sections) and nhm 13603, nhm v 18541 (complete cross-sections). 50 R. Brown, ‘Character and description of Kingia: a new genus of plants found on the south-west coast of New Holland; with observations on the structure of its unimpregnated ovulum; and on the female flower of Cycadeae and Coniferae’, in The Miscellaneous Botanical Works of Robert Brown, Esq.,d.c.l., f.r.s., ed. J. J. Bennett (London, 1866), pp. 433–61. 51 J. R. Green, A History of Botany in the United Kingdom from the Earliest Times to the End of the 19th Century (London, Toronto and New York, 1914), pp. 1–648, at p. 319. 52 Lankester, op. cit. (note 45), p. 84. 53 Green, op. cit. (note 51), p. 328; R. Brown, ‘Some account of an undescribed fossil fruit’, in Bennett, op. cit. (note 50), pp. 585–91. 54 Green, op. cit. (note 51) and J. B. Farmer, ‘Robert Brown. 1773–1858’, in Makers of British Botany. A collection of biographies by living botanists, ed. F. W. Oliver (Cambridge, 1913), pp. 108–25. 55 R. J. Cleevely, World Palaeontological Collections. British Museum (Natural History) (London, 1983), pp. 1–365, at p. 90. 56 Lankester, op. cit. (note 45), p. 84. 57 Earlier name for Zygopteris primaria. 58 S. M. Gupta, Birbal Sahni (New Dehli, 1978), pp. 1–87, at pp. 37–40. 59 Ibid., p. 36. 60 B. Sahni, ‘On the structure of Zygopteris primaria (Cotta) and on the relations between the genera Zygopteris, Etapteris and Botrychioxylon’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of Londonb, 222 (1932), pp. 29–45; B. Sahni, ‘On a palaeozoic tree-fern Grammatopteris baldaufi (Beck) Hirmer, a link between the Zygopterideae and Osmundaceae’, Annals of Botany 46 (1932), pp. 863–79. 61 Gupta, op. cit. (note 58), p. 68. 62 T. G. Halle, ‘Professor Sahni’s palaeobotanical work’, The Palaeobotanist (Lucknow, 1952), vol. ii, pp. 22–41. 63 The original letter is at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. 64 H.A.L. Schippan, Quer- und Längen-Durchschnittsriss einer in Sachsen gefundenen und bis jetzt noch unbekannten Art versteinerter Palme (Freiberg, 1824). © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
Journal of the History of Collections – Oxford University Press
Published: Aug 9, 2017
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