Papers of Louis Dufresne (1752-1832)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers are composed of correspondence about the acquisition of Dufresne's natural history collection by the University of Edinburgh, 1818-1821. Some are undated.

Administrative / Biographical History

The French taxidermist Louis Dufresne was born in Champien, near Peronne in the Departement de la Somme, on 18 January 1752. He was the eldest in a large family and his parents found it difficult to support them. Dufresne was educated at the village school and from an early age he had developed an interest in natural history and began a collection of material that would continue over the next fifty years. Leaving Brest in August 1785, he set out with other naturalists aboard the vessel 'Astrolabe' on a natural history expedition. The 'Astrolabe' was accompanied by the the 'Boussole'. They visited Madeira, Tenerife, Trinidad, the coast of Brazil landing at Santa Catarina Island, Cape Horn landing at Concepcion Bay in Chile, the Sandwich Islands, and then to the coast of north-west America and to Alaska. In 1786, they resumed the expedition heading towards Monterey in California, and then across the Pacific to Macao in China. The expedition returned to France in 1787. In June 1793, Dufrsene joined the staff of the Department of Zoology at the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, and he stayed for the rest of his life. His work included not only taxidermy but also the classification of invertebrates and the arrangement of collections. He undertook various missions on behalf of the Museum, visiting many parts of the world. By 1818, the Dufresne Bird Collection had grown to some 1,600 specimens, perfectly stuffed and fixed on wooden supports with Latin and French names. The Dufresne Collection also included 800 exotic eggs as well as 4,000 shells, fossil shells, amphibious animals and corals, and 12,000 insects. In 1819, the Collection was purchased for the University of Edinburgh (and in 1866 it became part of the displays shown in the newly built museum which would later on become known as the Royal Scottish Museum). In 1829 Dufresne was awarded the Legion d'Honneur. Louis Dufresne died suddenly on 11 October 1832 after a fever resulting from inflammation of the lungs.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Acquired May 1970, Accession no. E70/18.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Sweet, Jessie M. 'The collection of Louis Dufresne (1752-1832)'. Annals of science. Vol.26. No.1. March 1970. London: Taylor and Francis, 1936-.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Corporate Names