Scanned (PDF) original descriptions

christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Mon May 13 07:11:23 CDT 2002


Back in 1996 I did some of this. See our Diptera Site (
under research. Under the Archive of Diptera you will see some rare papers
in facisimile; also under rare flies (Eurychronomya mallea) you see that we
again give not only facisimile of the original description, but also
translation. And on our prototype Species pages, we also included facisimile
of the original description (see, for

The REAL problem remains, however, we know what we should be doing to move
systematics into the digital age BUT WITHOUT additional support, the few
remaining taxonomists can only put up a few "prototypes" and hope ALL, NSF,
GBIF, who ever, will find us the additional resources needed to do a
comprehensive job.

NSF is now throwing millions at developing a tree of life for "all" 1.7
million organisms. We, who work in the tenches, know this is a joke because
we still can not accurately say whether it is 1.7M or 2M or what and know
most of those species are merely names for a sample from single collection
event, etc. And that this is again a diverting of resources away from
inventory work to keep the vertebrate and flower plant people happy, etc.

So to get funding we have to make alliances with the molecular sequence
people and hope they will give us a few scraps to do our inventory work

Oh, well ...

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at [NB: no terminal "n"]
visit our Diptera site at

>>> Richard Pyle <deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG> 05/10 6:11 PM >>>
Greetings Taxacomers...

For a number of reasons, I'm trying to get a sense of how many folks out
there in systematics-land have gone to the trouble of scanning original
taxon description publications into electronic format (e.g., PDF files).
Web searches don't seem to produce much on this front, but I can't believe
that nobody else has recognized the incredible potential of making digital
representations of important taxonomic references (especially original
descriptions). Surely someone out there has begun doing this for personal
use at the very least (e.g., carry around your systematics reprint
collection with you wherever you go, on the hard drive of your laptop), if
not as part of a larger taxon name cataloging effort?

I'm not thinking only about current journal articles (many of which are
available from the publisher as PDF files), but also (and perhaps more
significantly) the historical taxonomic literature -- particularly those
taxonomic gems that are very rare and difficult to obtain in paper form,
include important original descriptions or revisions.

Anybody know of any activity on this front?


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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