Jean Louis Berlandier
The first botanist of record to work in West and South Texas and north-
eastern Mexico was Jean Louis Berlandier, a Frenchman who arrived in
Mexico in 1826. His mission was to collect botanical and zoological speci-
mens for a group of Genevese naturalists, including the renowned bota-
nist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, under whom he had trained. Although
Berlandier's contract with his Swiss sponsors expired in 1829, he did not
return to Europe but settled in Matamoros, living there until his death
in 1851. During these years he amassed extensive botanical and zoological
collections, numerous manuscripts on natural history, ethnology, and
meteorology, and a large number of watercolor paintings, treating both
botanical and zoological subjects. This material is now dispersed among
various institutions on both sides of the Atlantic.
During the fall of 1.980, the Texas State Historical Association will pub-
lish one of Berlandier's major manuscripts, "Journey to Mexico During
the Years 1826 to 1834," translated by Sheila M. Ohlendorf, Josette M.
Bigelow, and Mary M. Standifer. This journal, now in the Library of
Congress, covers travels made with the Mexican Boundary Commission, as
well as separate journeys made in Mexico and in Texas. An introductory
essay by C. H. Muller in the Association's two-volume translation outlines
general background for Berlandier, for the science he sought to serve, and
for the frontier on which he worked. Eighteen color plates and sixteen
black and white drawings suggest the variety of subjects which interested
the young scientist.
The Boundary Commission, on which Berlandier served as botanist and
zoologist, functioned as a cohesive unit under Manuel de Mier y Terin
from November, 1827, until roughly the summer of 1829. Although its
most obvious objective was to reconnoiter the northern boundary of Texas,
it was also enjoined to report on the character and customs of the various
Indian tribes, to assess Texas's natural resources, and to note the history
and prosperity of the Texas settlements.
The kind of information that Berlandier was obliged to report on behalf
of the Commission provides the framework for the journal as a whole.
Throughout, the account of his travels is marked by a detailed, methodical
description of the landscape and its inhabitants. Heavy emphasis is ac-
corded to botany and to the state of agricultural and industrial develop-
ment. For the historian, naturalist, and ethnologist alike, Berlandier's
journal should offer more colors for the great mosaic.
We believe that this publication will be one of the most significant
works of Texana to appear in the decade of the eighties. We are pleased
to be the publisher.
Cover: A green parrot, to which Berlandier attached the names
Psittacus viridis and Psittacus chrysocephalus. The painting is from the
Jean Louis Berlandier Papers, Smithsonian Archives, Record Unit
7052, Box 12.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/. Accessed April 18, 2014.