Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Carolus Clusius's Armadillo

We spent the first couple of sessions of this term examining a curious beast: the armadillo.  Here's an introduction to the text, courtesy of Natalie Lawrence:

The armadillo first arrived in Europe in the early 16th century, it was one of the cache of animals that naturalists encountered demonstrating the wonders of the New World. Their hard shells and relatively small sized made them very transportable and easy to preserve, and, as we can see in this text, they were relatively common in collections by the end of the century.

Clusius references several authors who were seen as 'authorities' on New World fauna, such as Oviedo, de Acosta, and Monardes. He had been exposed to a great deal of Americana as a result of his translation work on some of the big titles of natural history, and his ideal position in Leiden University. Here, there was an influx of goods from all over the world, providing Clusius with a wealth of new material. Though the armadillo was not a very new creature, therefore, Clusius was able to re-present it and provide new information about it.

As always, we first present the Latin text, followed by our draft translation.  Comments and suggestions welcome!

Carolus Clusius, Exoticorum libri decem (1605) 

Lib. V. Cap. XV, p.109-10 :: Armadillo, sive Tatou genus alterum

In epistolâ quam Jacobus Plateau, cujus in hac Exoticorum historiâ crebra sit mentio, Novembri mense anno millesimo sexcentesimo secundo à Christi nativitate ad me scribebat, inter alia significabat, se tria illius animalis, quod Hispani ab armis quibus tectus est, Armadillo appellant, Gallis verò voce Brasilianicâ Tatou dicitur, in suo Museo diversa habere genera: unum quidem valde magnum, ejus formae cujus illud erat, quod in scholio ad Nicolai Monardes caput de Armadillo, Libro de Medicamentis simplicibus ex Occidentali India delatis, ante aliquot annos exhibebam et nunc denuò exhibeo: aliud item illi ferè simile, sed minus: tertium, ab illis  forma diversum, cujus quidem Iconem coloribus expressam illo tempore ad me mittebat, sed ejus magnitudinem non adscribebat: de qua re monitus, illius longitudinem et crassitudinem insequente Iunio etiam addebat, Hujus forma, quum ab ejus generis animalibus quae mihi conspicere licut, sit diversa, nec à quopiam exhibitam putem, in tabella delineandam et sculpendam curabam, ut huic capiti adponeretur, additâ brevi ejus, quam ex picturâ concinnare potui, historiâ, Recentiorum quorumdam testimonio confirmatâ.

[Margin note: Tatou III genus] Habebat porrò id animal pedis unius et quatuor unciarum longitudinem; corporis verò ambitus erat quatuordecim unciarum, binis videlicet minor longitudine: ejus tegmen durum et testaceum, fuliginosi coloris, quem fortè vetustate et manuum tractatione contraxerat, quodammodo tessellatum, a collo ad medium corpus quasi orbiculatae figurae tessellis variè pictis distinctum, medio autem corpore, ternis ordinibus quadrangularum tessellarum variè etiam picturam insignitum, postrema tegminis pars similibus orbibus distincta erat, qualibus pars anterior: totum etiam caput ad nares usque similibus testis tectum: aures patentiores, nec adeò mucronatas habebat, ut illud quod in scholio ad Monardem exhibitum: cauda brevis erat, duobus digiti humani extremis articulis non major, tota etiam orbiculatis tessellis tecta: ventrem nullâ crustâ tectum fuisse, sed villis dumtaxat obsitum, pictura repraesentabat, quaemadmondum etiam crurum posteriorem partem, atque guttur, et nates: posteriores pedes ternis digitis et calcari praeditos fuisse pictura fidem faciebat, anteriores verò dumtaxat binis et calcari, nisi à pictore fuerint praetermissi: penem satis longum et exertum habebat.

Ceterùm istam varietatem oriri arbitror è Provinciarum, in quibus hoc animal vivit, diversitate: è variis enim regionibus adferri certum est.

Qui de hoc animali scripserint, Consalvum Ferdinandum Oviedum primum fuisse comperio: reliqui enim qui aliquid de illo tradiderunt, ab ipso desumpsisse videntur. Is igitur cap. XXII sui Summarii Bardato appellat, hoc est, panopliâ, sive integrâ armaturâ tectum, et [greek text], his verbis quae ex Italico sermone Latina faciebam.

[Margin note: Greek text, Bardato]. [Greek text], sive undique armis munitus, vel, ut Italicum exemplar habet, Bardato, animal est aspectu admirabile, valde diversum ab iis quae aut in Hispania, aut in aliis Europae regionibus conspiciuntur. Quadrupes est animal, totumque corpus cum cauda corio tectum habet simili cortici Lacerti, de quo infrà sumus dicturi [Crocodilum Americanum intelligit] coloris inter album et cineraceum mixti, ad album tamen magis accedentis. Ejusdem verò est formae cum equo undique armis munito; caniculae autem vulgaris magnitidine: non est animal noxium; domiciliumque habet in terrenis tumulis, pedibusque, terram egerendo, sua latibula fodit cunicolorum instar. Capiuntur haec animalia vel retibus, vel balistis petita occiduntur, magna autem ex parte sementis tempore, quando stipulae aduruntur, aut agri coluntur ut gramen producant in boum et animantium pabulum. Aliquoties me hoc animali vesci contigit, ac sanè melioris saporis quàm hoedos, et salubrem cibum esse comperiebam. Ceterùm si haec animalia in iis Provinciis conspecta fuissent, in quibus equos undique armaturâ muniendi consuetudo originem sumpsit, ex hujus animalis aspectu exemplar desumptum opinari quis posset. Haec Oviedus.

Licet porrò hujus animalis saporem adeò commendet Oviedus, Iosephus tamen à Costa Historiae Natural. et Moral. Indiae Occidentalis lib. IV. cap. XXXVIII. non est ejus opinionis, longeque Yvanae carnem praefert, animalis de quo proximè sequente quarto capito agemus.


In the letter which Jacob Plateau, of whom in this history of Exotica there is frequent mention, wrote to me in November of the 1602 year from the birth of Christ, he indicated, amongst other things, that he had in his museum three different kinds of this animal, which the Spaniards call Armadillo, from the armour with which it is covered, and by the French it is called Tatou taken from the Brazilian name: One very large one indeed, with the same form as the one in the notes of Nicholas Monardes, in the chapter concerning the Armadillo, in the book ‘Medical simples brought from the West Indies’ and which I now publish anew: a second one, mostly similar to that one but smaller; a third, different in form from these, of which indeed he sent me an image at that time, depicted with its colours, but he did not indicate its size: having been advised about this matter, the following June he added its length and thickness. The form of it seems to be different from the other animals of this kind that I have been allowed to observe, and I do not think anyone has represented it before, I have taken care to draw and engrave it in a plate, so that it may be placed alongside this chapter, I have added a short history to it, which I have been able to put together from the picture, and that has been confirmed by more recent testimony.

[Margin note: Tatou III genus]

Furthermore, that animal had a length of one foot and four inches, but the circumference of the body was truly 14 inches, that is to say, two less than the length: his hide was hard and tiled, a sooty colour, which was perhaps the result of the handling it had received as a result of its age, it was somewhat tesselated; from the neck to the middle of the body were round tiles distinguished with a variegated pattern, but in the middle of the body were three rows of quadrangular plates also distinguished with different patterns; the rear part was marked out with similar discs like the front portion: the whole head was covered to the end of the nose with similar plates: it had more prominent ears, but less pointed than that which was published in the notes of Monardes; the tail was short, no bigger than the two outer articulations of the human finger, and it was wholly covered with round plates: the picture shows the stomach was not covered with any shell, only covered with hairs; just like the back part of the leg, and the throat and the buttocks; the back legs were furnished with three digits  and a spur as the picture shows; the front ones have two spurs, except that they have been excluded from the picture; it had a reasonably long and extruded penis.

For the rest, I reckon that their variety arises from the diversity of the provinces in which this animal lives: for it is certain that it has been brought from different regions of the world.

Of those who have written about this animal, I think Ferdinand Oviedo Gonzalo de Cordoba to have been the first: for others who say anything about it seem to have taken it from him. In chapter 22 of the 'Summarii' he calls it Bardato, that is, covered with a panoply or full armour, and cataphracton [armoured horse], in these words, which I translated from Italian tongue into the Latin. 

[Margin note: Cataphractus, Bardato ] Cataphracton, or as the Italian has it, Bardato, is an animal of impressive appearance, very different from those which are seen both in Spain and in other regions of Europe. It is a four-footed animal, and has its whole body and tail covered with skin similar to the skin of a lizard, concerning which below we are about to speak (he means the 'American crocodile'), of a colour mixed between white and ashen, but more tending towards the white.  Indeed, it is of the same form as a horse, protected with armour on all sides; moreover it is the size of a common puppy: it is not a harmful animal; it has its home in mounds of earth, and with its feet, moving the earth out of the way, it digs its dens like rabbits.  Having been sought, these animals are either captured in nets or killed with guns, particularly at sowing time, when the stubble is burnt, or when the fields are ploughed to produce grass for cattle and livestock fodder.  A few times it happened that I ate this animal, and I found it to taste much better than goat-kid and to be a nourishing food.  For the rest, if these animals had been seen in those regions in which the custom of armouring horses on all sides took its origin, someone might think the example was taken from the appearance of this animal.  This much from Oviedo.

Although Oviedo recommends the taste of this animal so highly,  Jose de Acosta on the other hand, in book 4, chapter 38 of his Natural and moral history of the West Indies, is not of that opinion, and far prefers the meat of the iguana, an animal that we shall discuss in the following fourth chapter.


Jacob Plateau or Jacques Plateau: A collector who sent many specimens and exchanged much correspondence with Clusius. In return, he received many mentions in Clusius's work.

Nicholas Monardes (1493–1588), a Spanish Physician and Botanist, who published his Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales ("Medical study of the products imported from our West Indian possessions") in various editions, the first being in 1565. Clusius translated this work from Spanish into Latin in a volume: De simplicibus medicamentis ex occidentali India delatis quorum in medicina usus est. A revised version of this translation appeared in the Exoticorum libri decem in 1605.

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478 – 1557), a Spanish historian and writer, acted as secretary to Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba. Oviedo's La General y natural historia de las Indias Las Quinquagenas de la nobleza de España was one of his principal works, but was only published in part in 1535. A summary, ('Summarii') was published at Toledo in 1526: La Natural hystoria de las Indias.

José de Acosta (1539-1600), a Spanish Jesuit missionary and naturalist in Latin America. His Historia natural y moral de las Indias  was published in 1590, and Clusius included a revised translation of this work in the Exoticorum.

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