More on Ancient Measurements => Lines
Karen.Wilson at RBGSYD.NSW.GOV.AU
Tue Jan 11 13:06:13 CST 2005
Stearn's invaluable 'Botanical Latin' (e.g. edn 4, 1992) gives a useful
summary in the chapter on numerals and measurements of other old
measures such as the 'pollex' (length of terminal joint of a thumb),
'unguis' (length of a finger-nail - ?which one?) derived from the
(?average) human body.
He quotes them from Linnaeus' Philosophia botanica, 262 (1751), and
gives a metric equivalent for each. Note that he equates the 'line' to
what is called a French line below (= 2.25 mm).
In that same chapter, Stearn also mentions measures derived from
comparison with other natural objects such as a pea, hazelnut or
goose-quill, without trying to equate them to a standardised metric
One he doesn't mention that I like is that used by Boeckeler (1875), the
thickness of a hen's quill, as in 'culmo ... pennam gallinaceam crasso'
- a slender-stemmed sedge that would be, whatever the variety of chook
he was comparing it with!
From: Michael A. Ivie [mailto:mivie at MONTANA.EDU]
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 5:58 AM
To: TAXACOM at LISTSERV.NHM.KU.EDU
Subject: Re: Ancient Measurements => Lines
Through the courtesy of Max Barkley at the Natural History Museum, I
have finally found the following data on the various "lines" used in
early taxonomic literature. On Page 11 of C. M. F. von Hayek's 1973
"Reclassification of the subfamily Agrypninae (Coleoptera: Elateridae)"
[published in Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History)
Entomology Supplement 20: 1-309] she states: "A six inch ivory ruler
produced by Janson of Russell Street London, shows that the English,
French and German lines differ in length." She then lists: 1 English
line = 2.117 mm 1 German line = 2.191 mm 1 French line = 2.250 mm
"Michael A. Ivie" wrote:
> Dear Chris,
> Christine von Hayek at the then-British Museum (Natural History) had a
> fantastic little scale with English, French and German lines on it.
> They were all different. She included the various sizes of each in
> her 1973 paper "Reclassification of the subfamily Agrypninae
> (Coleoptera: Elateridae)" published in Bulletin of the British Museum
> (Natural History) Entomology Supplement 20: 1-309. Unfortunately, my
> copy walked several years ago, and I have not been able to replace it,
> but it had all kinds of wonderful information. If I remember
> correctly, it was in the back in an appendix. It could also have been
> in the 1979 Additions and Corrections, published in the Bulletin of
> the British Museum (Natural History) Entomology
> 38: 183-261, as my copy had them bound together.
> christian thompson wrote:
> > In the early literature, at least for insects (Entomology), many
> > european authors gave measurements in LINES (lignes in French), but
> > there seems to be confuse about whether this was a uniform standard
> > across European countries and what a line is equal to.
> > Some earlier workers, Scopoli (1763, Entomologia Carniolica) printed
> > a scale in the front of his work. His line was equal to 2.14 mm.
> > Fairchild (1967, Pacific Insects 9: 75) wrote that the line of
> > Wiedemann (another earlier worker from 1810-30) used a line equal to
> > 2.18. Once I copied information from an "Webster's Unabridged
> > Dictionary" which had a table indicating that a line from France was
> > equal to 2.256 mm, 2.12 for England, 1.9 mm for Chile. Unfortunately
> > I copied that information when I was a graduate student back in the
> > mid 1960's and didn't note the edition of the Webster's.
> > If any one have better information or citations on lines as a unit
> > of measurement in taxonomy, I would appreciate them..
> > F. Christian Thompson
> > Systematic Entomology Lab., USDA
> > c/o Smithsonian Institution
> > MRC-0169 NHB
> > PO Box 37012
> > Washington, DC 20013-7012
> > (202) 382-1800 voice
> > (202) 786-9422 FAX
> > cthompso at sel.barc.usda.gov e-mail
> > www.diptera.org web site
> Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.
> Department of Entomology
> Montana State University
> Bozeman, MT 59717
> (406) 994-4610 (voice)
> (406) 994-6029 (FAX)
> mivie at montana.edu
Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.
Department of Entomology
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
(406) 994-4610 (voice)
(406) 994-6029 (FAX)
mivie at montana.edu
More information about the Taxacom