China 2014

Pam travelled to Yunnan, China in the spring of 2014 to hunt for Primulas. Click image for more...

Primula Rediscovered

Primula bracteata and Primula bullata are found in their type locations after 125 years.

Near Lhasa, Tibet

How do you tell the difference between P. tibetica and P. fasciculata?

Primula ambita in the Wild

The first ever cultivated plant caused a stir at Chelsea earlier this year.

New Primula Book

The latest Primula book is a revision of the 106 species of Primula found in India.

Going around in circles - Primula minutissima, Victor Jacquemont, and Mangled Maps

Primula minutissima
It's my curiosity that not only keeps me interested in studying Primula species, but also leads me to exciting side trails of investigation. Such is the case of Primula minutissima, which I was researching yesterday. Looking at several sources of information, the distribution of the species is given as NW & W Himalayas. As this is a large area, I wondered where the type location was.  Most of the images in Primula World are from the area near Rupin, Nalgan and Hampta Passes in Himachal Pradesh. Looking to the original description in “Prodr. [A. P. de Candolle] 8: 42. 1844”, the location is given as “Ghanti India”. So where is that? Smith & Fletcher don’t mention the exact type location in their description of P. minutissima – only that the type sheet is in the Paris herbarium. Sometimes detailed collection information is given on the herbarium sheet, so I looked to sheets P04544185 and duplicate P04544180 to see if there were clues there. Nothing! According to Smith & Fletcher, Royle first collected this species in Kunawar in 1831, but Duby used Jacquemont’s collection #1537 to describe the species. So that started me down the path of investigation into Victor Jacquemont.
Victor Jacquemont - from Bibliotheque nationale de France
Victor Jacquemont was born in 1801, but sadly lived a short life, dying in 1832 at age 31. Despite his young age, he was part of the intellectual circles of Paris in the 1820’s and his botanical contacts included Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart who worked at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle and Adrien-Henride Jussieu who worked at the Jardin des Plantes. It was Pierre Louis Antoine Cordier from the Muséum who invited Jacquemont to India, which he accepted, departing in August 1828 and arriving in India nine months later in May 1829. He continued his travels to Delhi, arriving in March 1830, and then he headed north into the Western Himalaya. He made extensive collections and notes of plants (4787 entries at Paris) and animals, made drawings, recorded observations in geology, geography, meteorology and anthropology and famously wrote many letters to friends and family. In March 1832 he became ill and eventually succumbed eight months later on July 30th. Posthumously his notes, drawings and letters were published.

A search led me to Raj Kumar Gupta’s paper "Botanical explorations of Victor Jacquemont (1801-1832) (PDF)" which gives a description of Jacquemont’s life and which includes a simple map of his route in the Himalaya. Unfortunately there is no place marked “Ghanti”. Gupta says that after Jacquemont’s death his notebooks were received in three parts: V1 Calcutta to Delhi and the Himalayas Nos. 101-2528, V2 Punjab and Kashmir Nos. 1-1541, V3 Delhi to Bombay Nos. 1-818 and also a separate volume enumerating his notes on Hortus calcutensis. It is unfortunate that these original documents don’t seem to be online as the connection could be made from the collection number to a date and then location details in his diary. Maybe there is a clue in the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle booklet on Jacquemont (published in 1959), but it is not online either. 

Foiled by Google

With such fame, I thought it would be easy to find a map detailing Jacquemont’s route in the Himalaya, but it proved more difficult than I thought. I looked in the books of Jacquemont notes and letters published posthumously (listed below). In one book, I was able to find a mangled map. RANT – all very nice that old books are scanned by Google (and others), but maps are rarely unfolded and scanned so all we see is a tantalizing piece of a mangled map! Eventually I found a version of the book with the map scanned properly - but the map isn't of sufficient resolution to read the names.

That meant I had to look for other sources of maps from that time period. One of those sources is "The Jummoo and Kashmir Territories: A Geographical Account" by Frederic Drew but once again the maps were scanned in a mangled version. However, I was rescued by PAHAR, which keeps a digital dataset of old maps, specifically those from the Indian subcontinent, pre 1899. Drew's maps didn't help, but the 1874 map "Route Map For Western Himalayas and N India by Montgomerie" was promising but too complex to read. Another map included in "Victor Jacquemont dans l'Himalaya (1830-1831)" by Emm. de Margerie has a map of Jacquemont's route in Kashmir (page 402) but it isn't of high enough resolution to view.
The Buspa Valley from Sungla by Samuel Bourne 1865
Going back to the Jacquemont books, I was able to find references to "Bouroune-Ghanti", variations on the name's spelling - Bouroune, Bourando or Burunda, and where it was located. Some more searching led me to the earlier spelling of "Boorendo" and the paper "Narrative of a journey from Caunpoor to the Boorendo Pass" by Lloyd and Gerard and a simple map showing the pass connecting the Pubbur (Pabar) and Buspa (Baspa) river valleys. Now it all becomes clear and I find I have travelled in a circle...we are at Rupin Pass! According to Montgomerie's map Burunda and Rupin passes may lie side by side, possibly with Burunda at 31°23'15.44"N  78° 8'43.83"E and Rupin at  31°21'7.21"N  78° 9'18.02"E.

Of course, that's what I discovered yesterday. Perhaps more information will come to light another day...

  1.  Correspondance de V. Jacquemont avec sa famille et plusieurs de ses amis: pendant son voyage dans l'Inde, 1828-1832 (various editions).
  2. Letters from India: describing a journey in the British dominions of India
  3. Voyage dans l'Inde.