Incorrect original spelling?

Wolfgang Wuster w.wuster at BANGOR.AC.UK
Wed May 7 17:04:54 CDT 1997

Here is a little chestnut that several colleagues and I have been
discussing for some time now, and I was wondering whether fellow
TAXACOMers might be able to shed some light on the problem:

In 1797, Shaw and Nodder described the snake species Coluber russelii.
>From the context, it was clear that the snake was being named after the
well-known British medic and biologist Patrick Russell. Note the
discrepancy in spelling: Patrick Russell consistently spelled his name
with -ll, whereas Shaw and Nodder repeatedly spelled it with -l, and used
the spelling "russelii" for the scientific name.

Gray (1842) emended the spelling of the specific name to russellii,
presumably on the basis of the correct spelling of Patrick Russell's

Question: was this a justified emendation of an incorrect original
spelling (ICZN, articles 32c(ii), 32d, 33b(ii)), or an unjustified

Points to bear in mind: Shaw & Nodder mentioned Russell several times in
their work, and each time spelled his name with a single L - this was
clearly deliberate, albeit incorrect.

Art 32c(ii) states that an original spelling is incorrect is "there is in
the original publication itself, without recourse to any external source
of information, clear evidence of an inadvertent error, such as a lapsus
calami or a copyist's or printer's error".

Internally, there is thus clear evidence that the single L was used
deliberately. At the same time, there is also internal evidence that the
species was named after Patrick Russell, who spelled his name with -ll.

Which spelling of the scientific name is correct, russelii or russellii?

Any comments on this problem would be gratefully received.

Wolfgang Wuster
School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, UK
e-mail: w.wuster at   WWW:

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