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Odonatologica 42(4): 369-402 December 1, 2013
LIFE AND WORK OF
MICHEL EDMOND DE SELYS LONGCHAMPS (1813-1900),
THE FOUNDER OF ODONATOLOGY
M.Th. WASSCHER1 and H.J. DUMONT2
1 Minstraat 15 bis, NL-3582 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands
2 Biology Department, Faculty of Science, Gent University, Ledeganckstraat 35,
B-9000 Gent, Belgium
The life and times of the great Belgian odonatologist are outlined. The main sources
of biographic information are his diaries (1823-1900). In addition to a sketch of his
rich life, the information on his family, the castles he lived in, his travels in Europe, his
immense natural history collections, on his disciples and on his contacts with contem-
porary odonatologists is given therein. Selys was a liberal politician, and devoted much
of his time and energy to local, provincial and national political levels, as a senator
and President of the Belgian Senate. He had a broad interest in natural history that
far transcended the study of dragonies. In odonatology, his work is of a particular
importance: he did not only pioneer the eld by describing over 700 valid spp., but he
consequently used wing venation as the backbone of the taxonomical system of the
order. In his Last Will, Selys earmarked a large sum of money in order to stimulate
the work of various specialists on the description of his large zoological collections.
The year 2013 marks the bicentennial of the birthday of baron Michel Edmond
de Selys Longchamps. Most odonatologists will be familiar with his name, gener-
ally shortened as ‘Selys’, in taxonomic descriptions. But who was this man who
shaped the classication of Odonata and who described over 700 species and
established 134 valid genera within the Odonata? How important was his work
for the development of contemporary odonatology? In this paper we provide an
outline of his life and work by rst providing some biographical background as
then details about natural history and odonates.
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Of the utmost importance for this study was Selys’ own diary, which he kept from the age of 10,
in 1823, to a few weeks before his death, in 1900. This sizeable document has been recently published
by CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS (2008)1 and we subsequently refer to it as
‘Diary’ in this paper.
This work is further based on the biography by COEN (1982) and on ten biographies, necrologies,
obituaries and miscellaneous studies, viz.: ANONYMOUS (1901), BLASIUS (1901), CALVERT
(1901), DUBOIS (1901), LAMEERE (1902), MARTIN (1901), PLATEAU (1902), RIS (1901),
SELYS & SELYS (1901)2 and WATERMAN (2005)3. Additionally, we sought information from over
25 of Selys’ articles, obituaries for colleagues and many other papers found on the internet as well as
digitalized old Dutch newspapers4.
Selys’ documents and letters are conserved in three archives, which are kept at different locations.
The rst archive, at the University of Liège, is in the general library, in the room “Marie Delcourt”5.
A list of its contents has been published (CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2010).
A second archive was moved to the University of Liège in 1959 (YANS, 1961) and is now at the State
Archives in Liège6. The third archive contains Selys’ scientic correspondence and is kept at the Nat-
ural History Museum, RBINS, in Brussels7.
As a reference to the Odonata species described by Selys we used the species list by SCHORR &
PAULSON (2013). While this list is not complete, with some subspecies treated as synonyms and
some species described by Hagen in Selys given as if they were authored by Selys (M. Hämäläinen,
pers. comm.), there is no better list available at present, however.
Selys wrote more than 300 scientic papers on many zoological subjects besides Odonata, on which
he published about 130 studies. During his later life, he also published bibliographical notes on his
own work (e.g. SELYS, 1897b); summaries of Selys’ odonatological literature are provided also by
DUMONT (1967) and BRIDGES (1994).
The family name, ‘Selys’, was already established in the 17th century when the
family lived in Maastricht, The Netherlands (at the time this was Limburg, a re-
gion of Europe that encompassed The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany)
(COEN, 1982: 1). One of Selys’ ancestors, Michel Selys (who passed away around
1622) called himself “lord of Opoeteren”, a village in the Belgian part of Limburg
(PLATEAU, 1902). The name Selys is one of the many variants (e.g. Celys, Ce-
lis, Sels) derived from Marcellus8. Consequently, Selys should be written without
the French “accent aigu”. Longchamps was incorporated to the family name af-
ter the family acquired a title of nobility over this village in the Liège area. Note
that the general area where the family lived was situated in a politically sensitive
region, with the city of Liège, and part of Limburg, independent and governed
for a long time by a Prince-Bishop but allied with Germany, Luxembourg, and
France. The French Revolution ended this situation. Michel Laurent de Selys
Longchamps (Laurent), Selys’ father, a wealthy aristocrat, held important polit-
ical positions9 in Liège but his loyalty changed sides between the Prince-Bishop
and the French revolutionaries on more than one occasion. From 1802–1809 he
was representing the department of the Ourthe (including the city of Liège) in
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 371
the legislative body in Paris, under Napoleon (PLATEAU, 1902). Paris is also the
place where he met his wife Marie-Denise Gandolphe, who was a widow10 with
two children. They married on 9 May 1808. A portrait of the couple was painted
by Jean-Joseph Ansiaux in 180911.
After 1809, Selys´ father returned to spend most of his time in Liège and at his
property in Longchamps in Waremme (‘Borgworm’ in Flemish). Around 1810,
Selys´ father built a chateau in early Empire style at Longchamps12. In England
such huge buildings would be called mansions (WASSCHER, 2012); in Belgium
the French term ‘chateau’ (castle) is widely used.
Michel Laurent de Selys’ admiration for Napoleon is evident from the west wing
of the castle: the billiard room here is an imitation of the tent of Napoleon dur-
ing his eld campaign in Egypt. Nevertheless, Michel’s admiration for Napoleon
was not sufcient for him to name his son Napoleon, unlike other high ranking
ofcials during that period. At the time of the Belgian Revolution in 1830 (bring-
ing an end to about 15 years of a union with the Netherlands) Michel was one
of the twenty-one members of a Committee advising the National Congress on
the creation of an independent Belgium13.
Michel Edmond de Selys Longchamps (‘Edmond’) was born in Paris, the capi-
tal of Napoleon’s Empire, on 25 May 1813 in the Rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré
130 (Diary: 1 July 1900)14. For reference this was just before Napoleon lost the
Battle of Leipzig (16-19 October 1813) and at Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in
1815, Selys was two years old. Born in the French Empire of Napoleon, Selys
thus became a citizen of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (roughly the
Netherlands, Belgium, and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg) despite remain-
ing in Paris.
Selys had one sister, Amanda, four years older than him, and two half-sisters,
Coralie and Laura Smits, thirteen and seven years older than him, respectively.
His maternal grandmother also lived in Paris. As his father worked in Liège, Selys’
spent his rst nine years in Paris surrounded only by women. In 1816 (i.e. 3 years
old), he made his rst visit to Longchamps and saw his father for the rst time
(MICHEELS, 1914-1920: 192).
Selys begins writing a diary at the age of 10 (Fig. 1), on 27 August 1823, say-
ing that he arrived from Paris. In the following months he visits Longchamps but
leaves for Paris on the 8 September 1825 to live there for most of the next two
years15. He returned to Longchamps before 1 July 182716 (Diary: 25 December
1840; MICHEELS, 1914-1920: 192).
Notes on Selys’ education started in September 1823, with music lessons by
Théodore Coumanne. His private tutor Adolphe Hoffmann17, a lawyer, com-
menced his instruction in Paris (PLATEAU, 1902). Another tutor, sometime before
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
1828, was Tirelle de Modine,
a teacher in Italian language
(Diary: 7 April 1848). At the
time the common language
of diplomacy was French,
but it is uncertain wheth-
er Selys ever acquired more
than a passive knowledge of
that language. A rather amus-
ing entry in the diary refers to
a visit by Mr and Mrs Kirby
to Selys, where he states that
he could not understand their
English and they spoke not a
single word of French! Yet, in
1849 he employed a govern-
ess, Miss Marie Claire Cook,
as an English tutor for his
children. She subsequently
became like a member of the
family, and remained close-
ly associated with the Selys’
until her death in 1894. She
probably instructed Selys’
daughter Caroline, his son
Walthère, and certainly his
grandson Marc (see below).
Marc became Professor of Zoology at the Free University of Brussels and was
admired by his francophone colleagues for his excellent command of the English
language (BRIEN, 1965).
From 1827 onwards, Selys’ liberal parents allowed him to read whatever he liked
and he never formally attended school or university (COEN, 1982: 21), though he
took some courses at Liège University. In an unpublished document Selys com-
plained at the age of 26 about his education and wrote “I am not responsible for
my bad education” (SELYS 1841: 1). Nonetheless, numerous people and books
inuenced him. At rst it was Henri Stephens (1799-1889), in 1828 a gardener
at Liège University (PORTUGAELS, 2012), who sold him ‘Système naturel’ on
18 June 1829 and helped him later to arrange his herbarium according to Linné.
This probably marks the start of his systematic work on Natural History.
Fig. 1. Engraving of Edmond, aged 10, in 1823 [from CAULI-
ER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2008].
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 373
In 1810, Selys’ father bought and partly rebuilt a second chateau18 in Liège (on
the Mont Saint Martin, with postal address Boulevard de la Sauvenière 34) (Fig.
2). It was a ‘hotel’ dating from the 15th century19. From the family of the moth-
er of Selys the family inherited a third chateau at Colonster20, south of Liège.
In 2013, this was in use by the University of Liège. The Colonster chateau was
inherited by his sister Amanda and was not as often visited as the two previous
ones and the latter. The chateau at Halloy near Ciney that had belonged to his
father-in-law, was the third place where Selys frequently lived (Fig. 2). His Odo-
nata collections were rst at Longchamps and later moved to the Liège chateau.
As with many aristocrats around Liège at that time, Selys spent his summers
mostly in the countryside at Longchamps and the winters in Liège (CALVERT,
1901; CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2008: xxiv). Selys of-
ten stayed in a rented accommodation in Brussels because of his work in the Sen-
ate; e.g. “Agreed to rent at the hotel de France for 3 francs a day, a room for four
months in wintertime” (Diary: 10 November 1877). Later it was apparent that
Fig. 2. Castles related to Selys, clockwise: L o n g c h a m p s at Waremme, the summer residence; –
B o r g h a r e n (property of his son Raphaël); – M o n t S a i n t M a r t i n, winter residence (here
was stored the Odonate collection during the last decades of his life); – C o l o n s t e r, S of Liège
(inherited by his sister); – H a l l o y at Chiney (inherited by Selys from his father-in-law). – Brussels,
were he often dwelled as senator; – Ostende and Spa, where he often spend holiday.
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
Selys did not like staying in Brussels because of “the precautions for my health
on account of the frequent residence in Brussels during the bad season in win-
ter” (CALVERT, 1901: 33). When in Belgium Selys visited places like Spa and
Oostende, but was fondest of the direct surroundings of Longchamps and Liège.
Sites that were frequently visited included the Kempen, Limburg (now eastern
Belgium), a region rich in water bodies and thus comprised a large number of
Selys’ collecting localities21.
Selys married Sophie d’Omalius d’Halloy, daughter of the famous Belgian ge-
ologist Jean Baptiste d’Omalius d’Halloy, in 1838. They had four children: Car-
oline in 1839, Raphaël in 1841, Walthère in 1846 and Marguerite in 1848. Selys
ensured that the family obtained the inheritable title of ‘baron’ from Leopold II
on 31 July 1867 (COEN, 1982: 26-28), but himself avoided the title for most of
his life, even stipulating in his marriage contract that he would not use it (WA-
Life expectancy22 was 50 in wealthy families like that of the Selys. Selys’ father
died in 1837 aged 78, a year before his marriage, and his sister Amanda died in
1838 aged 29 while Selys and Sophie were on their honeymoon in Italy. Selys’
greatest loss occurred, however, when his youngest daughter Marguerite died aged
Fig. 3. Edm. de Selys Longchamps and his family on his 80th birthday 25 May 1893. Selys in the rst
row left, next to him Raphaël (with mustache), Walthère (with large beard) in the last row right; –
[From CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2008].
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 375
four of meningitis in 1852 (WATERMAN, 2005; HÄMÄLÄINEN, 2013). His
wife Sophie died of cancer relatively young, aged 51, in 1869 and his youth friend
Michel Ghaye died not much later at the age of 59, in 1872 (SELYS, 1872b). Selys
himself lived to the age of 87. In his family, only his father in law, Jean d’ Oma-
lius d’Halloy, with 92 years survived to an older age.
In his diary, Selys mentions his three surviving children equally often. His oldest
child, his daughter Caroline, married a baron and a future senator. His oldest son
Raphaël (see Fig. 3), became an ofcer of the cavalry and after 1875 an amateur
photographer of considerable talent, whose pictures would later be published in
a book (DE NAEYER, 1999; see e.g. Fig. 8); he married a French baroness and
they lived in a chateau at Borgharen, North of Maastricht in The Netherlands
(Fig. 2). Raphaël and his family inherited the chateaus at Longchamps and Liège.
Selys’ younger son, Walthère (later sometimes referred to as Walter), struggled
with the towering personality of his father and was a bit of a rebel. Walthère (see
Fig. 3) liked biology but eventually studied law in Liège. He also travelled in Bra-
zil and la Plata in Argentina in 1872-1873 with the zoologists Eduard van Bened-
en and Eugene van Volxem on a commission from the Belgian Government (W.
DE SELYS, 1875) and collected Odonata, of which a few were named after him
(HÄMÄLÄINEN, 2013). Although this trip may have been an important act
of self-conrmation for the son (the father never left the European continent),
there was an intense correspondence between Walthère and his father. In 1875,
however, Walthère wrote a letter to his father in which he confessed that he had
made Philomène Joséphine, the cook at Longchamps, pregnant (WATERMAN,
2005). Selys was very upset about this (Diary: 22 February 1875). Walthère and
Philomène left Longchamps and co-habited, unmarried, in Paris and later Ge-
nève, Switzerland. Apparently Selys kept pressuring his rebel son to end this situ-
ation. The couple nally got married on 13 October 1881 in Paris, but the union
was backdated by 10 years, as if it took place on 13 October 1871. Indeed, their
oldest son Marc (though born 30 June 1875, was never mentioned in Selys’ diary
before the marriage). Note that Marc would later study biology under August
Lameere in Brussels and become a well-known Zoology Professor at the same
institution. Marc’s expertise was in the marine phyla Phoronidea and Tunicata
(BRIEN, 1965). Walthère and his relatives inherited the chateau at Halloy; later
Walthère became a senator like his father.
Selys liked to travel. His longest voyage was his honeymoon trip (from 1 March
to 10 August 1838) that brought him and Sophie as far South as Naples (Fig. 4).
On this trip he visited the collections of small mammals in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg,
Frankfort am Main, Rome, Pisa, Milan, Genève (COEN, 1982: 103). His furthest
voyage was to Sweden (from 31 July 1874 to 24 August 1874) where he attended
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
a Congress of Anthropology and Archeology in Stockholm. The northernmost
town he visited was Uppsala where he made a pilgrimage for Linnaeus and visited
Linnaeus’ tomb and his small estate Hammarby. The easternmost place Selys vis-
ited was Budapest, for a Congress of Statistics (voyage from 9 August to 19 Sep-
tember 1876). On this trip he visited collections at Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna,
Budapest, Augsburg, Stuttgart and Darmstadt (COEN, 1982). In Vienna Selys
stayed from 20 to 31 August and worked for several days with Friedrich Brauer.
The southwestern most place visited was Biaritz, in 1858, and the northwestern-
most site visited was Loch Katrine near Stirling (EVANS, 1905). This latter trip
took place during the second half of June and July 1845, when visiting Scotland
for the collections of Robert Greville and James Wilson at Edinburgh; later, he
gave a presentation at Oxford23 (SELYS, 1846). Selys visited London several times,
including a trip to the collection of dragonies of Linnaeus at the Linnaean So-
ciety on Soho square (Diary: 1 August 1851).
Fig. 4. Map of central Europe, with (dated) outer corners of his travels.
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 377
POLITICAL CARRIER AND HIGH CONNECTIONS
On 6 February 1843 Selys became a communal councilor of Waremme (COEN,
1982: 38) and was later a provincial councilor. For a short time, he was also a
member of the Chamber of Representatives for Waremme. He attended the rst
Belgian Liberal Congress in1846 and, as a liberal, was sent to the national Sen-
ate in 1855, to represent the district (“arrondissement “, in French) of Waremme.
He maintained this ofce until a few months before his death in 1900. The Senate
elected him Vice-president in 1879; in1880 he was appointed President for four
years (Fig. 5b). In his letters to Phillip Calvert, Selys frequently referred to the
great amount of time consumed by his senatorial duties (CALVERT, 1901) and
RIS (1901: 367) wrote that political work took a large share of his working time.
Selys was a multi-millionaire by descent; he was a landowner who collected goods
and rent from the farms on his land. As a member of the Senate, Selys was a no-
bleman amongst many other noblemen. To be eligible to join the Senate, one had
to pay 1000 orins which meant that (at around 1830) only about 4000 persons
in Belgium could be elected senator (WIKIPEDIA, 2012). Note that senators
were not paid for their work.
Selys was a republican, like his father, and was disappointed when the newly-
-created Belgian state did not choose to be a republic. It took him a long time to
accept the King as his sovereign. Shortly after the February Revolution in 1848,
Selys went to “sniff the revolutionary air” in Paris (WATERMAN, 2005). On 15
May he wrote in his diary: “After 4 hours in the sun we could not enter the As-
semble [in the Palais de Bourbon]. Bought entrée tickets earlier that morning.
The tribunes were invaded by 150,000 people who arrived from over the bridge”.
It was a workers protest and Louis Blanc and Alexandre Albert closed the gen-
eral meeting and started a new government. That day Selys was in a place where
world history was written.
A few weeks later, on 26 June 1848, the Belgian King, Leopold I, opened the
Parliament. Selys wrote “Everyone applauded except me!”. On 5 July 1848 Selys re-
fused to dine with the King: “I will not haunt the court”. A day later someone from
the royal palace warned Selys they considered him to be too much of a republican.
However, things eventually cooled down and Selys ended up in good terms with
the royal family, and often dined with Leopold I and later with his son Leopold
II. Selys occasionally dined with the Dutch King William III (‘Guillaume III’).
In January 1866, Selys was sent on a special diplomatic and royal mission. Af-
ter the death of Leopold I on 10 December 1865, he was asked to return his Ital-
ian decorations to King Victor Emmanuel of Italy (BRIEN, 1968). On 14 and
18 January 1866 he dined with Victor Emmanuel in Florence, then the capital
of Italy. They talked “about hunting, natural history and public works” (Diary:
18 January 1866). He took advantage of this visit to Italy to visit six Italian bird
collections (SELYS, 1870b).
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
WHAT WAS SELYS LIKE?
COEN (1982) puts on the cover of his book on Selys a Jesuit dictum: ‘Fortiter
in re, suaviter in modo’: gentle in manners, strong in deeds. Indeed, he seems to
have been an amiable man. Leonie de Waha said about her uncle Selys: “he loves
Fig. 5. Some portraits of Edm. de Selys Longchamps: (a) lithography from circa 1843 [from CAU-
LIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2008]; – (b) President of the Senate, painting after
photograph, see Diary 30 March 1881; (c) – undated portrait [from COEN, 1982]; – (d) portrait from
circa 1883 [from COEN, 1982]. The respectively age of Selys was ca 30, 67, 75 and 70 years.
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 379
the world, gaiety, children and dancing” (PORTUGAELS, 2012).
LAMEERE (1902: 5), the inuential Zoology Professor at the Free University
of Brussels, described his rst meeting with Selys at an assembly of the Belgian
Entomological Society on 7 February 1880; at the time Lameere was 15 and Selys
was 66. “Great and solid, he was at the same time old and pleasantly young. His
long hair hung over his ears on his collar and gave him an appearance as if he
was from another century. I would have thought him to have stepped out of an
old Dutch painting. When he began to talk to give an advice on the household
of the society, his words made me guess that it was him”. Interestingly, this long
hairstyle was likely a deliberate choice of image; for example, on a painting of the
members of the Senate in 1888 (COEN, 1982: 185), one sees many moustaches,
beards and whiskers, but no such long hair. Selys had long hair on a lithography
dated back to when he was perhaps thirty (Fig. 5a). What LAMEERE (1902)
suggested might be true: in appearance, he looked like his ancestor François de
Selys (1626-1681; COEN, 1982: 6) on a painting that in 2012 still hangs on one
of the walls of the Longchamps chateau.
Unassuming, simple in his habits, Selys went to bed early and did not drink
wine until the age of forty, and even then only in moderation (WATERMAN,
2005). On the other side, Rudolf Blasius wrote that while he was on a visit to Selys’
home at Longchamps (12 August 1884), the servants at dinner were in great livery.
Selys himself was very hospitable: he would have had Blasius and his wife stay
for more than a day. The winter before, the ornithologist Henry Tristram even
stayed for several weeks, lodging in a room on the second oor of Longchamps
(BLASIUS; 1901: 368).
Selys was an active man, who liked to hunt, was a good horse rider and learnt
to ride a bicycle after his eightieth birthday24. But his diary indicates that he liked
to smoke cigarettes and cigars and also to gamble. Selys often went to theater
(visits 127 times mentioned), concerts (120 visits25) and he loved opera (131 vis-
its26) (CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2008: 1689-1695).
He visited many zoological museums but also enjoyed museums of archeology,
anthropology, culture and geology.
At Longchamps, since 1823 he had a youth friend, Michel Ghaye (SELYS,
1872b). Unlike Selys, Ghaye went to school but they sometimes took lessons to-
gether in the evening (Diary: 11 October 1829). Later Ghaye became his ‘con-
dence man’ (LAMEERE, 1902: 4). From 1842 onwards, Selys and Ghaye pub-
lished yearly on the phenology (‘the timing of periodic phenomena’) of plants
and animals (e.g. SELYS, 1848), in the period 1842-1872 (animals), in the period
1849-1873 on 21th March, 21th April and 21th October (plants) (SELYS, 1897b;
CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2010: item 84). They were
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
stimulated to do so by Adolphe Quetelet, the “father of statistics” and Professor
at the University of Gent, and they published on zoological statistics in Belgium
in ANONYMOUS (1852); see BRACKE (2008).
Though Selys had many contemporary entomological friends in the Belgian
Entomological Society, none of these specialized in the Odonata. Some collect-
ed Odonata for Selys, for example Martin Robyns (entomologist and colleague
in the Senate, who captured at Geel, Northern Belgium, the holotype of Soma-
tochlora avomaculata, described by Vander Linden in 1825). Baron Joseph de
Villenfagne de Vogelsanck27, Ernest Candèze (1828-1898), Jules Putzeys (1809-
1882), Camille van Volxem (1848-1875) and Edgard Claes (1856-1895) were other
Belgian entomological friends; Adrien Maurissen from The Netherlands should
also be cited here.
Selys’ best odonatological friend was Hermann Hagen (Tab. I). After they had
both published papers on European Odonata in 1840, they started a correspond-
Friends, colleagues and disciples from Edmond de Selys Longchamps, interpreted mainly from the
number of references in CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS (2008)
Name Residence Life-span First contact Number
Hermann Hagen Köningsberg, Berlin 1817-1893 1841 98**
Robert Mac Lachlan Lewisham (UK) 1837-1904 1855 106**
Herman Albarda Leeuwarden (Netherlands) 1828-1898 1875 24*
Friedrich Brauer Vienna (Austria) 1832-1904 1876 12*
Ferdinand Karsch Berlin (Germany) 1853-1936 1891 8
William Kirby Dublin, London (UK) 1844-1912 1883 4*
Guillaume Séverin Brussels (Belgium) 1862-1938 1888 72**
Friedrich Ris Rheinau (Switserland) 1867-1921 1885 54**
Friedrich Förster Schopfheim (Germany) 1864-1918 1896 35**
René Martin Le Blanc, Indre (France) 1846-1925 1893 32**
Philip Calvert Philadelphia (USA) 1871–1961 1893 13*
*They met in person once or twice; – ** They met in person several times
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 381
ence in 1841 and they met in spring 1843 in Paris (CALVERT, 1901). They worked
together on a European “Revue des odonates” (1850) and two large monographs
on Calopterygidae and Gomphidae, published in 1854 and 1858 (Tab. II). After
the monographs Hagen often added descriptions to the work of Selys until 1886.
In 1867 Hagen came over for a long visit to Selys and his collection in Liège28.
How close they were can be illustrated by the last day of his visit: “My last morn-
ing with Hagen. He left at 15:45 for Cologne. I hugged him at the station. His last
work, the train was ready to leave, had been the translation of the text of Arvicola
campestres by Blasius”29 (Diary: 17 September 1867). This was just before Hagen
emigrated from Köningsberg (now Kaliningrad, then part of Germany) to Cam-
bridge30 in the USA. After this separation they continued their close friendship,
though they never again met in person.
His second best friend in odonatology was Robert McLachlan, a British ento-
mologist and pioneer in the study of the world fauna of Trichoptera and Neu-
roptera. On the last group in northern Asia they published together in SELYS
& McLACHLAN (1872). They rst met on 23 July 1855 in Ostend, a town on
the Belgian coast, and saw each other from time to time. At such occasions, they
went on joint excursions e.g. to the Hautes Fagnes in Belgium. In his testament,
Selys formulated the wish that Robert McLachlan should nish the description
of his large odonate collection, and reserved a generous nancial compensation
for this. McLachlan, however, turned down the offer (see below).
The mayor work of Edm. de Selys Longchamps: monographs with H. Hagen (2) and synopses (26)
Title First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth 7 Seventh Eight
Synopsis des 1853 1859 1869 1873 1873 1879
Monographie des 1854
Synopsis des 1854 1859 1869 1873 1873 1873 1878
Monographie des 1858
Synopsis des 1860 1860 1862 1862 1863 1865 1876 1877
Synopsis des 1871 1874 1878
Synopsis des 1883
Revision du 1886
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
Perhaps surprisingly, contact with three important odonatologists in the 19th
century, Hermann Burmeister, Pierre Rambur and Toussaint de Charpentier, as
minimal. Burmeister is mentioned in the diary only once. Selys tried to visit a
museum with the types of Hermann Burmeister in 1880, after a visit to Wilhelm
Schlütter, who lived at Halle, but he found the museum closed (Diary: 28 Septem-
ber 1880). There are no records mentioning correspondence between Selys and
Pierre Rambur, the most important contemporary French odonate specialist31;
likewise, Rambur never mentioned any correspondence with Selys (RAMBUR,
1842: xvi-xvii). Similarly no correspondence with Toussaint de Charpentier is
mentioned by Selys, either. The two European odonatologists that Selys corre-
sponded with and met at least once were Herman Albarda and Friedrich Brauer
(see Tab. I).
In the last twelve years of his life Selys had several odonatological students, with
the most important being Guillaume Severin who was very close to Selys. Sev-
erin was born as Wilhelm Peter Robert Severin on 25 August 1862 in The Hague
(ANONYMOUS, 1862; BOONE & DE RUITER, 1994), where his Dutch (but
originally German) father was a court photographer. On 26 February 1888, Sev-
erin32 is rst mentioned in the diary of Selys “Mr Severin, a young entomologist,
came to see my collection”. Selys was 75, Severin 26. Severin would become an
‘aide-naturaliste’ at the Royal Museum in Brussels in December 1890 and was
promoted in 1899 to the post of curator of the Department of Arthropods (MIS-
KHEL, 2011). He would paint the larger part of the plates from the odonate col-
lection of Selys, the Anisoptera. Other odonatological disciples included Friedrich
Förster33, Friedrich Ris, René Martin, Philip Calvert and Ferdinand Karsch (see
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Being born in Paris, that city was also the most frequently visited non-Belgian
travel destination of Selys. Every now and then he went there and often he brought
back birds, dragonies and other insects he bought there. For example, in 1858
he wrote: “Bought Neuroptera from Veracruz [Mexico] at Emile Sallé, rue Guy
Lambrosse 13; bought a rustica from Mr Pivot, a pusilla from Mr Lefèfre [both
Emberiza birds, respectively Rustic and Little Bunting], and pins from Mr Ev-
ans.” (Diary: 14 October 1858). On some days he mentioned to have bought items
from ve different salesmen. He sometimes visited the Entomological Society of
Paris (Fig. 6), e.g. on 26 June 1867.
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 383
On his honeymoon in 1838, he rst visited the collections at Paris and Lyon
after which he went to southern France where at Aix-en-Provence he twice (11
March and 12 March) met Etienne Boyer the Fonscolombe (who was 70 and
Selys 24 years old). Boyer the Fonscolombe had just published a monograph
on the Odonata in the surroundings of his hometown (BOYER DE FONSCO-
LOMBE, 1837)34. In 1840 Selys dedicated a new Sympetrum to him: S. fonsco-
lombii. In 1858 he went on a long excursion to the Southwest of the country in
the surroundings of Biaritz (SELYS, 1858).
THE DUTCH CONNECTION
After Selys had published on the faunistics of the vertebrates of Belgium in 1841,
he decided it would be necessary to visit collections in The Netherlands and the
North of France (SELYS, 1883: 82). On 8 May 1841 he left Antwerp by stagecoach
for The Netherlands, a trip that at that time still took several days to complete. On
10 May he arrived at Leiden and made a walk with Willem de Haan (the describer
of Lindenia, 1826). The next
day he met Coenraad Tem-
minck and Herman Schlegel
at the Leiden Museum, both
very honourable ornitholo-
gists and mammalogists. He
did not mention visiting the
Odonata collection that year,
but he collected dragonies
himself at Leiden, Amster-
dam, Haarlem and Utrecht.
On 21 April 1851 Selys once
again traveled from Antwerp
to The Netherlands. The next
day in Leiden he noticed that
the friendship between Schle-
gel and the 27 years older
Temminck had ended35. On
24 April 1851 he counted in
the Leiden collection a total
of 840 odonates referable to
350 species. Selys visited the
Leiden collection on another
four occasions: in September
1864, August 1879 (when he
made a summary catalogue
Fig. 6. Edm. de Selys Longchamps as a member of Entomo-
logical Society of France, his rst known photograph (prob-
ably 1855; see Diary 17 April 1855). – [From internet, at http://
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
of the collection), in July 1885 and in 1895 at the third and very successful In-
ternational Congress of Zoology. On the last occasion he presented a paper ‘Le
progrès dans la connaissance des odonates’ (SELYS, 1895).
Herman Albarda, a Friesian lawyer, entomologist and birdwatcher, was a Dutch
colleague, with whom Selys corresponded between 1875 and 1895. They met at
least once: in 1878 Selys went to Liège to see Albarda (Diary: 25 August 1878).
Albarda sent species from the Far East to Selys (e.g. Beijing, China; Diary: 12
August 1886) and described some himself36.
Selys had a large inuence on the Dutch Odonata faunistic literature in the sec-
ond half of the ninetieth century. It is very likely that the publications by Selys
were used as examples by the Dutch for writing their odonate faunistics (HERK-
LOTS, 1852; SNELLEN VAN VOLLENHOVEN, 1866). These authors both
saw Selys two years before their publication in Leiden, respectively in 1850 and
in 1864 (Diary, 22 April 1850 and 29 September 1864).
Since his eldest son, Raphaël de Selys Longchamps, became owner by mar-
riage of the castle at Borgworm, just North of Maastricht in The Netherlands
(‘Haren’ in the diary), Selys often visited this southern part of The Netherlands
While Selys collected as much material as he could, he also received collec-
tions from various sources (including his son Walter, see earlier) and purchased
the larger part of his dragony collection, which depended on whatever special-
ized merchants had to offer. He had a special connection with Henry Bates, who
travelled and explored Brazil from 1848 to 1859 for commercial collecting. On 9
August 1851 he rst saw a new genus related to Euphaea37 with Samual Stevens
captured at Ega, “which he got from Mr Bates (from the Amazon)”. The British
commercial naturalist Samual Stevens is mentioned 16 times in the diary. The next
time Selys mentioned Bates was on 23 January 1865: “At the customs authori-
ties I picked up 500 dragonies of the Amazon collected by Bates”38. In 1871 at
London, he had breakfast with 21 people, where the name Bates is underlined
(Diary: 1 July 1871), showing that he was special to Selys.
With Alfred Wallace the relationship was less close. Wallace started collecting
around Belem in Brazil together with Bates, but returned to England earlier; on
his return on 9 August 1852 his ship caught re and all of his specimens were lost.
Many Odonata Wallace collected later in the Malay Archipelago were bought by
The German merchants most frequently mentioned in the diary are Hans Fruh-
storfer (“Birthday party 85 years. Showed my big collection to Fruhstorfer with
whom I spent two hours”; Diary: 25 May 1898). Another German seller whom he
often mentioned was Otto Staudinger; whom he visited on 22 September 1880 at
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 385
Some genera and species named after Edm. de Selys Longchamps, which are considered valid in 2013.
– [Species-group names in Odonata are not listed; for these see BRIDGES, 1994]
Plants: Selysia Cogniaux, 1881; Odonata: Selysioneura Förster, 1900 and Selysiothemis Ris, 1897
Ascalaphidae: Colobopterus selysi van der Weele, 1903, Ameropterus selysi (Van der Weele, 1909) and
Proctarrelabis selysi van der Weele, 1909; Plecoptera: Marthamea selysii (Pictet, 1841); Trichoptera:
Sericostoma selysi Pictet, 1865, Glyphotaelius selysii McLachlan, 1869 and Hydropsyche selysi Ulmer,
1907; Formicidae: Formica selysi Bondroit, 1918; Mecoptera: Bittacus selysi Esben-Petersen, 1917;
Megaloptera: Neurhermes selysi (van der Weele, 1909); Myrmeleontidae: Palpares selysi Esben-Peters-
en, 1926; Coleoptera: Platypus selysi Chapuis, 1865 and Tiracerus selysi (Schaufuss, 1880); Arachni-
dae: Corinna selysi (Bertkau, 1880); Fossil molusc: Fusiturris selysi (De Koninck, 1837); Psocoptera:
Hemipsocus selysi Banks, 1918; Lepidoptera: Aglais selysi Donckier de Douceel 1881 and Celaenor-
rhinus selysi Berger, 1955; Orthoptera: Discotettix selysi Bolívar, 1887; Fossil bird: Vanellus selysi Va n
Beneden, 1871; Mammals: a Myotis subgenus Selysius Bonaparte, 1841, occurring in southeast Asia
and Australia, is now treated as junior synonym of Myotis (WILSON & REEDER, 2005).
Dresden in his villa Diana, with its splendid collection (Diary). He was an asso-
ciate of Staudinger together with Ernst Heyne. These three (or their collections)
are mentioned in his diary respectively 37, 19 and 23 times.
SELYS AS NATURALIST AND SCIENTIST
Selys’ natural observations started at the age of 11. He shot an Emberiza cit-
rinella (a Yellow bunting, bird), and caught butteries and a damsely for the
rst time (Diary, resp. 24 February, 10 July, 13 July 1824). On this last date he
also mentions that baron Ferdinand [baron de Borchgrave d’Altena, his brother-
-in-law] had given him two months before this date a depressa [Libellula depressa]
and a virgo [Calopteryx virgo] which Selys tried to feed. Soon after, he began to
study the insect book of Latreille (Diary: 26 July 1824).
On the age of 15 Selys wrote his rst article: a catalogue of non-winged insects,
Neuroptera (including Odonata) and butteries. While this was later published in
the ‘Dictionaire géographique de la province de Liège’ (SELYS, 1831), virtually all
names used in this article, including the ‘new species’, are wrong, and thus Selys
still had a lot to learn. With his rst mammal species descriptions in 1836, Selys
begins his scientic career39.
Though he is widely considered an autodidact, Selys became an erudite natural-
ist: “Duty called him into political service, and he fullled it with great devotion
and success, but the study of nature was his passion” (WATERMAN, 2005). We
know him as a devoted odonatologist but his interests extended to the Belgian
fauna more generally to mammals, birds, trees and meteorological phenomena
(CALVERT, 1901). Selys studied the animals of the interior and fresh water, and
his contemporary and friend Pierre Van Beneden studied marine and coastal-ter-
restrial fauna (PLATEAU, 1902: 77; COEN, 1982: 104).
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
Selys was interested in and he was a member of many different scientic or-
ganizations: anthropological, economic, geographical, geological, human rights,
malacological, medical, statistical etc. (CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-
-PEREMANS; 2008: 1656-1658). He was a founding member (and served sev-
eral terms as the President) of the Societé Entomologique de Belgique in 1856.
He was also active in the ‘Académie royale des Sciences de Belgique’, and was an
honorary member of almost all European entomological societies.
Less expected might be his membership of the Botanical Society, ‘Societé roy-
ale de Botanique de Belgique’. Alfred Cogniaux, President of this Society, named
a plant genus from Central and South America after him as Selysia Cogniaux,
1881, one of the 125 genera of the Cucurbitacea (COGNIAUX, 1881) (Tab. III).
As a teenager, Selys already had a cabinet with e.g. eggs of Buzzard (Buteo bu-
teo), Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), some minerals (Diary: 9 July 1824), a but-
tery collection (Diary: 9 March 1828) and a herbarium (Diary: 17 October 1829).
He enlarged his collections by collecting himself, getting additions from friends
and family, and last but not least by commercial purchases. He continuously kept
arranging his collections: “Together with Mr Stephens I have arranged my her-
barium in the way of Jussieu.” (Diary: 17 October 1829). And “I started with the
rearrangements of my libellules after Brauer. … They are now in 46 cases and 4
with Cordulia in 3 weeks.” (Diary: January 1873).
Fig. 7. Edm. de Selys Longchamps with a Calopterygidae cabinet [From COEN, 1982]
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 387
CALVERT (1901) wrote: in the
Revue in 1850, “Selys had given no-
tice of his intention to extend his
researches to the exotic forms. He
had already acquired the collections
of Latreille, Rambur, Audinet-Ser-
ville and Guerin-Meneville with this
end in view”40. Other collections ac-
quired, and not mentioned on other
places, where at least parts of those
from Toussaint de Charpentier and
Wilhelm Schneider41. Selys writes in
1858 he softened the dragonies of
both collections (Diary: 23 May 1858).
Selys’ collections42 (Fig. 7) became so large that he constructed an extra build-
ing to house them: it is the grey building right of the entrance (as his great-great
granddaughter told the rst author on a visit to the castle on 15 August 2012). The
collections were visited not only by experts, but also by students from Waremme.
His friend Charles Lucian Bonaparte (2nd Prince of Canino and Musignano and
a nephew of Napoleon I, II and III) named his collections the `Museum Sely-
sianum’ (BONAPARTE, 1850).
In 1895, having just returned from the Third International Congress of Zool-
ogy in Leiden on 23 September, he counted 1530 odonate species in his collec-
tion at Liège. At that time he lacked approximately 280 described known species.
Kirby in 1889 (= probably KIRBY, 1890) said he knew 1830 types, Calvert at the
end of 1892 knew 1982 types (Diary: 27 September 1895). In 1905 his collection
contained 1854 out of the 2100 species known at the time (SEVERIN, 1905).
Shortly before 1905, the Selysian Odonata collection was moved from Liège to
RBINS in Brussels (SEVERIN, 1905). The other collections were moved from
Longchamps to RBINS in 1932 (ANONYMOUS, 1932). A buttery collection
was transferred to Brussels only in the 1970s, still in an impeccable state.
Selys described several insects43 beside odonates and several vertebrates44. But
Selys was the rst true Odonata taxonomist and his work and large collection has
been crucial for the later development of odonatology. Most essential was perhaps
his insight in the importance of wing venation as an essential tool in taxonomy,
and this remains valid in spite of the recent discovery of a number of wing vein
homoplasies. Note that this idea was not entirely novel as BURMEISTER (1839)
used wing venation too and Selys was also inuenced by a publication by VAN
DER HOEVEN (1828) that introduced the difference of the triangle direction
Number of described odonate genera and species
Year Author Genera Species
1767 Linnaeus 1 20
1793 Fabricius 3 65
1839 Burmeister 6 159
1842 Rambur 33 350
1871 de Selys Longchamps 190 1357
1879 McLachlan 1700
1890 Kirby 313 1900
1891 Calvert 321 1922
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
as difference between the genera Aeshna en Libellula (SELYS, 1840: 20, 192).
According to CALVERT (1901), the literature written by Selys can be divided
into three groups. The rst group deals almost exclusively with European species
and embraces the years from 1831 to 1851. The results of this are summarized
in his chief work of this period, ‘Revue des odonates ou libellules d’Europe’ which
he wrote with Hagen in 1850. The second period is that of the monographic re-
vision of the Odonata of the world, from 1853 to 1886 (see Tab. II). In SELYS
& HAGEN (1854) the authors wrote in the preface: “It is in our thoughts only
the commencement of a History of the Odonata, that we hope to bring to an
end in a few years. Our project is to publish successively, under the form of mon-
ographs, the ve or six subfamilies that constitute the Odonata, and of which
we already know about a thousand species.” In the end they published only two
monographs45, although Selys published by himself 26 issues of studies he called
‘synopsis’ (Tab. II). These were meant to “consist of the synoptical tables which
he prepared for his own use whilst working upon a monograph of the Calop-
teryginae […]. Each is intended in fact as a sort of prodrome to the larger work,
and contains in a semi-tabular form, short characters of all divisions, genera and
species which will be described more fully in the latter” (ANONYMOUS, 1854).
The third group of Selys’ dragony publications are chiey faunal papers46, and
while they began as early as 1857, they did not occupy much of his working time,
nor were they extensive until 1878-1879. Asia was relatively well covered by these
papers but Africa less well so.
Fig. 8. Edm. de Selys Longchamps (right from the centre, aged 75) entering a coach 1888; [Photo-
graph by Raphaël de Selys Longchamps, from DE NAIJER, 1999]
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 389
Selys’ work contains no reference to evolution in the Odonata (CAULIER-
-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS, 2008: xli), although he bought the
French translation of Darwin’s Evolution by natural selection in 1862 (Diary:
22 September 1862) and he was present at the appointment of Charles Darwin
as an associated member of the ’Academie royale de Belgique’ in 1870 (Diary:
15 December 1870).
In most of his publications on Odonata, Selys does not provide gures. This is
intriguing as Selys wrote in an article on barklice Psocidae: “Mr McLachlan said,
it is very desirable that such drawings should be published, because we know by
experience how difcult it is for a student, commencing his studies of the Pso-
cidae, to follow description of the peculiarities presented by neuration [nerva-
tion], without the aid of gures” (SELYS, 1872a). Such considerations apply
to odonates. Why then did Selys include so few illustrations in his publications?
RAMBUR (1842: iii) was very critical about the drawings in one of Selys’ ear-
ly papers (SELYS 1840) and wrote: “In 1840 de Selys published a monographic
work on the European libellulidées […] and gave gures that are little accurate
and less appropriate than those from de Charpentier”. While Selys continued to
use a few gures in some subsequent articles (e.g. SELYS, 1843) these comments
likely affected him. His later publications contain drawings by Hagen (SELYS &
HAGEN, 1854; 1858) or Severin (SELYS, 1889). An additional reason for a lack
of illustrations, may be that he described species from collections he visited while
travelling around Europe. However, as few of these could be accessed by further
loans he had to hurry to complete the descriptions and probably was afraid of
making mistakes in illustrations (SELYS, 1874).
Before his marriage with Sophie in 1838, she took a course for aquarelle paint-
ing (Diary: July-August 1837: 181). After her death in 1869 Selys started to draw
aquarelles of Coenagrionidae although before that date he sometimes drew birds
(e.g. hybrid-birds; Diary: 3 April 1867). One of the rst known watercolours, dated
6 November 187447, painted at Halloy, is of Agrion caerulescens Fonscolombe, 1838
(now: Coenagrion caerulescens). The existence of these watercolours was known
(e.g. CALVERT (1939) and one of us (HJD) but they were traced to RBINS, the
natural history museum in Brussels, by Matti Hämäläinen (HÄMÄLÄINEN,
2009; WASSCHER, 2012). LAMEERE (1902: 12), wrote about the intentions
Selys had in mind with the plates: “[Selys] had a dream to publish one day a great
iconographic work on odonates”. These plates have proven to be a very valuable
addition to the Selys collection, particularly when holotypes have been broken
or lost (HÄMÄLÄINEN, 2009; BOTA-SIERRA, 2012; WASSCHER & VAN
‘T BOSCH, 2013).
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
Selys was born in the year in which DE CANDOLLE (1813) introduced the
words ‘taxonomy’ and ‘priority’48 into biology. In 1842 SELYS (1842; iv) asked
himself “Recognizing the right of priority seems the only way to understand each
other and prevent that zoology soon becomes a chaos, a true Babel, as long as it
is xed at 1760, the period of the establishment of the binary nomenclature by
Linné and of the publication of Brisson’s book for all the genera not adopted by
Linné” (see DAYRAT, 2010). The rst realistic code of zoological nomenclature
was presented by STRICKLAND (1843) whom Selys probably knew quite well
since Hugh Strickland and his wife visited in 1845 the collection at Longchamps
(Diary: 30 September 1845). Thus, we may assume Selys was familiar with the
rst Code of Zoological Nomenclature49.
On the rst International Congress of Zoology in 1889 in Paris, the Code of
Zoological Nomenclature was discussed. One of the participants in the discus-
sions was Selys “I took much part in the discussions … . The matter of the prior-
ity will be discussed in three years time” (Diary: 10 August 1889). According to
DAYRAT (2010) Selys “suggested that any rule adopted by the Congress should
simply be regarded as some kind of advice, not as a law that would have author-
ity over zoologists”. Others suggested “It was a good place and was the ideal op-
portunity to agree on common rules”50.
Selys’ life began in an era of horse and wind power, with travelling taking place
largely by stagecoach and/or ship. Nonetheless in 1838 there was a train connec-
tion between Waremme and Brussels, and Selys made use of steamships, bicy-
cles and cars as they became available during his lifetime. Many of the problems
associated with increasing human population and industrial development were
recognized by Selys. For example in 1882 he wrote about the problems of water
pollution of small rivers (SELYS, 1882). Three years before his death, he gave a
lecture at the Acádemie Royale on the subject of ‘Le déclin d’une faunule’, which
was published in SELYS (1897a) (text see COEN, 1982: 115-119). This paper is
a complaint on the destructiveness of ‘modern’ agricultural techniques and deg-
radation of nature. He saw a decline of the fauna at a world level as well as lo-
cally: in the Hesbaye (in the surroundings of Longchamps) he saw species and
their numbers collapse, he observed the pollution of the brook ‘Le Geer’ by in-
dustry and was worried about all this. Indeed, nature in this part of Belgium has
suffered. While many parts of the civilized world were still in a pristine state, he
saw happening, in the 19th century, in his very backyard, what the future would
bring to large parts of the industrial world.
In the same year, he celebrated his 84 birthday with 19-20 people at the table.
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 391
There his friends McLachlan and Candèze informed him that the President of
the Entomological Society of France had announced erroneously his death and
praised him (Diary: 25 May 1897). But though nature was in decline, Selys him-
self was still going strong.
HIS LAST YEAR
Just before his 86th birthday, on 7 May 1900, Selys left the Senate in an emo-
tional ceremony51 (LAMEERE, 1902: 5). His resignation, he wrote to an Ameri-
can correspondent, was due to “my age; the precautions for my health […]; the
desire to live in my family for the few years that remain to me; and above all to
enjoy a little liberty which will permit me to work at my odonates, on which I am
very much behindhand on account of the Senate” (letter of 8 June 1900) (CAL-
In June he attended an ornithological congress in Paris, being present at all meet-
ings and other activities. He visited the world exhibition as well. Back at Long-
champs he was very tired and did not work52 each day as he normally did (BLA-
SIUS, 1901). His last letter was on 5 November 1900 to Williamson (GLOYD,
1983). In this, Selys wrote about Förster as being young, zealous, which was likely
to start later a warm friendship between the two. On 4 December he left Long-
champs for Liège to make a better treatment possible and on 8 December he went
in a state of coma. He died on 11 December 1900 at 6:00 in the morning, at the
age of 87 (BLASIUS, 1901: 363).
The funeral started on 14 December at his chateau in Liège, where seven hon-
orable men spoke. The funeral procession went under a military salute to the
St-Croix church next door, where a service was held and after that proceeded
to the railway station of Guillemin53. From here the train with his cofn left to
Waremme under a second military salute. The next day he was interred in the
family mausoleum on the local graveyard, the ground of which Selys had do-
nated to the village of Waremme around 1850 (BLASIUS, 1901: 364). The Selys
family mausoleum (see COEN, 1982: 198; WASSCHER, 2012) looks as if it was
lifted from the graveyard Père Lachaise in Paris (for which the ground was do-
nated by Napoleon I to the city of Paris). Likewise, the two ‘SL’ (de Selys Long-
champs) marks that Selys had arranged above the front door of his chateau at
Longchamps is nearly a copy of the ‘SL’ (‘Saint Louis’) mark in the ‘Dome des
Invalides’ (now the mausoleum of Napoleon), are both nods to Paris, where he
was born 87 years earlier.
DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLECTION OF SELYS
The testament of Selys contained the explicit wish that others should com-
plete the description of his large collection. Clearly, Selys had in mind one of his
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
Titles of the Catalogue of Edmond de Selys Longchamps (Catalogue systématique et descriptif des
collections zoologiques du baron Edmond de Selys Longchamps; see, e.g. TRIEMPONT, 2005), includ-
ing the not published parts (see e.g. SEVERIN, 1919)
Publ.date Fasc.No. Author and subject
1913 2 BURR, M.: Orthoptères. 35 pp.
1912 3(1) ENDERLEIN, G.: Embiidinen. 121 pp., 75 gs, 4 pls
1915 3(2-3) ENDERLEIN, G.: Copeognatha. 55 pp., 10 gs, 5 pls DESNEUX, J.: Isoptera. 10 pp.
1912 4(1) KLAPALEK, F.: Plécoptères. I. fam. Perlodidae (monographische Revision). 66 pp., 58
1923 4(2) KLAPALEK, F.: Plécoptères. II. fam. Perlidae (monographische Revision). 193 pp., 61 gs
1910 5(1) VAN DER WEELDE, H. W.: Megaloptera (monographic revision). 93 pp., 70 gs, 4 pls
1921 5(2) ESBEN-PETERSEN, P.: Mecoptera (monographic revision). 172 pp., 188 gs, 2 pls
1907 6(1) ULMER, G.: Trichopteren. 102 pp., 132 gs, 4 pls
1907 6(2) ULMER, G.: Trichopteren (Monographie der Macronematinae). 121 pp., 119 gs, 6 col.
1908 8 VAN DER WEELDE, H. W.: Ascalaphiden (monographisch bearbeitet). 326 pp., 254 gs,
1909 9 RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 1-120, gs 1-89, col. pl. 1
1909 10 RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 121-244, gs 90-152, col. pl. 2
1910 11 RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 254-384, gs 153-232, col. pl. 3
1911 12 RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 385-528, gs 233-317, col. pl. 4
1911 13 RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 529-700, gs 318-407, col. pl. 5
1912 14 RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 701-836, gs 408-491, col. pl. 6
1913 15 RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 837-964, gs 492-555, col. pl.7
1913 16(1) RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 965-1042, gs 556-604, col. pl. 8
1916 16(2) RIS, F.: Libellulinen (monographisch bearbeitet). pp. 1043-1278, gs 605-692.
1906 17 MARTIN, R.: Cordulines. 4 pp., 99 gs, 3 pls
1908 18 MARTIN, R.: Aeschnines. pp. 1-84, gs, 1-77, col. pls 1-2.
1909 19 MARTIN, R.: Aeschnines. pp. 85-156, gs 78-156, col. pls 3-4.
1909 20 MARTIN, R.: Aeschnines. pp. 157-223, gs 157-219, col. pl. 5-6.
1953 21 FRASER, F.C.: Gomphidae. 36 pp., 11 gs
22 Gomphines (not published)
23 Gomphines (not published)
24 Caloptérygines (written by R. MARTIN in 1912, but never published)
25 Caloptérygines (idem.)
26 Agrionines (not published)
27 Agrionines (not published)
28 Agrionines (not published)
29 Agrionines (not published)
30 Lepidoptères (not published)
1910 31 FRAIPONT, J.: Oiseaux. 130 pp., 2 col. pls
1907 32(1) FRAIPONT, J.: Mammifères. 38 pp.
1907 32(2) FRAIPONT, J.: Reptiles et amphibiens. 10 pp.
1907 32(3) FRAIPONT, J.: Poissons. 27 pp.
33 Vertébres de Belgique(not published)
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 393
best odonatological friends,
Robert McLachlan. The lat-
ter responded to Walthère,
Selys’ son (20 May, 1901):
“To my utter surprise I found
he had left me a considerable
sum of money in return for
which I was to work out the
collections. This was utterly
and totally impossible and I
at once renounced all right
to the money. From what
I know of the collections I
don’t think any of the parties
quite realize what they have
undertaken to do ... ” (CAL-
VERT, 1927: 199).
Walthère de Selys wrote on
22 March 1901 to Calvert, of-
fering an alternative solution:
“In view of the persistent re-
fusal of Mr McLachlan, a re-
fusal founded, unhappily, on
the state of his health (invin-
cible insomnia), Dr Ris has been willing to accept the scientic direction of the
work to be done for the publication of a methodical (and iconographic?) cata-
logue, with diagnoses of the new forms, of the collection of Odonata left by my
father. My father, by his will, has imposed upon me, in spite of my incompetence,
the heavy burden of the administrative direction (if I can so call it). Indepen-
dently of my nephew Maurice, still an absolute novice in this branch and whose
role in consequence can at rst be only secondary, we believe we can count for
the present in the number of collaborators of the projected work, René Martin
and [Friedrich] Förster. If the Atlantic had not separated you from us we would
not have been wanting in calling upon your collaboration also” (CALVERT,
1927). Guillaume Severin became after 1900 the “one who assumed the task of
obtaining collaborators for the ‘Catalogue des collections zoologiques de Edmond
de Selys Longchamps’ and overseeing the publication of this valuable summary”
The most important curator for Selys’ Odonata became the Swiss Dr Friedrich
Ris (1867-1931) director of a psychiatric clinic in Rheinau, Switzerland. He did
the coordination and wrote on the libellulinen (Tab. V), about which Selys had
not published a synopsis or monograph as they were too complicated. In addi-
Fig. 9. Belgian postage stamp issued in Belgium on 29 Sep-
tember 1986; and the Selys’ signature.
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
tion René Martin (1846-1925) wrote on the cordulines (published in 1908). In
December 1904 Martin wrote to Calvert that the revision of the aeschnines was
approaching completion, which was published in 1908-1909. In 1912 Martin
submitted a manuscript on calopterygines series, but it was never published even
though nancial accounts indicated that it was actually written and presented to
be printed (nancial report of the Catalogue committee in 1912, vols xxiv-xxv;
see SEVERIN, 1912). Furthermore, Matti Hämäläinen (pers. comm.) saw in 2012
labels of three unpublished manuscript names among Martin’s Indochinese ca-
lopterygoid species in his former collection in Muséum national d’Histoire na-
turelle in Paris, which are still undescribed.
TILLYARD (1917) wrote about the Catalogue: “The Gomphinae, Lestidae and
Agrionidae were unfortunately entrusted to three German authors. Not one of
these has so far made any serious attempt to deal with his obligations, accepted
now over thirteen years ago.” He was not completely well informed. Two groups
were indeed entrusted to Germans: the gomphids to Karl Grünberg and the ag-
rionids to Friedrich Förster. Indeed none of these planned volumes (xxi-xxiii for
the gomphines and xxvi-xxix for the agrionids; see SEVERIN, 1912) have been
published. Not the Lestidae but the calopterygides were planned to be written
by René Martin (see above).
After the First World War (1914-1918) Severin did ask for more people to sign
in on the series (SEVERIN, 1919). Finally the last ofcial part of the Catalogue
was published in 192354. Most published volumes are still available through RBINS
Besides his odonatological work, Selys was a politician, a zoologist and a natu-
ralist with a very broad range of interests. What probably many odonatologists
are not aware of is his interest and taxonomical work on small mammals, birds
and many insect groups other than dragonies. Yet, Selys was the rst true Odo-
nata taxonomist and his work and his large collection have been cornerstones for
later developments in odonatology. For this he used the wing venation as a fun-
Data on new species descriptions by the ve most proliphic Odonata taxonomists
Author Zygoptera Anisoptera Total Synonyms % Synonyms Papers
Selys 399 308 707 176 20% 130
M.A. Lieftinck 330 191 521 27 5% 132
F.C. Fraser 178 188 366 141 28% 290
H. Hagen 103 143 266 95 26% 67
F. Ris 138 128 246 41 14% 72
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 395
dament of taxonomy. CORBET (1991: 28) stated that the ‘classifying strand [of
Odonata study]’ started in 1820 by the Belgian Vander Linden; but in this [sub-
ject] Selys was ‘the undisputed odonatological giant’. No person has published
more valid new species (just over 700) than Selys did (Tab. VI).
Importantly, his inuence in Odonate studies reached beyond his death. The
millions invested in the huge project ‘Collections zoologiques Selys Longchamps’
made it possible for a next generation within the Odonate community to travel
to diverse collections and publish in the spirit of Selys. ‘There are few animal
taxa, and fewer groups of insects, whose behaviour and ecology are well enough
documented to permit the integrated, taxon-focused treatment attempted in this
book’ (CORBET, 1999: 562). All these facts put the taxonomy of the group on
a solid footing and provided the base to make Odonata one the best studied ani-
mal groups known.
Many thanks to MATTI HÄMÄLÄINEN and WOLFGANG SCHNEIDER with whom we had
a regular correspondence. Librarian ROBERT YOUNG searched the MCZ Archives Cambridge
(USA) for the drawings made by Hermann Hagen for the never published Monograph on the agri-
onines. CÉCILE OGER from the library of the University of Liège helped the rst author on sev-
eral occasions. So did BASTIAAN KIAUTA, in whose library the rst author could study the Selys
material on 30 December 2012. TIENEKE DE GROOT and JOHAN VAN ‘T BOSCH commented
on a draft version and PHILL WATTS gave many helpful comments on the manuscript.
1 407 pages of text and 340 pages of indexes. It can be ordered from the Académie royale de Bel-
gique at email@example.com.
2 This is often cited as Nomen nescio (N.N.) (1901), but it is hereby regarded as most likely to have
been compiled by his sons. It is a compilation of newspaper articles and speeches at his funeral;
it is present e.g. in the library of Naturalis, Leiden.
3 To be complete: the articles which were not consulted: CAMERANO (1901) and MOURLON
4 To be found on [http://kranten.kb.nl/].
5 Place Cockerill 1, Liège, visited on 25-10-2012. It had been inherited by his son Walthère de
Selys Longchamps, his grandson Edgard de Selys Longchamps and great-grandson Walthère de
Selys Longchamps (1915-1987). This archive also contains the papers by the second son of Selys,
Walthère de Selys Longchamps, and part of the correspondence on the Catalogue of the collec-
tions of Selys, which appeared between 1906 and 1923. About the situation found in Halloy: “The
librarian in Liège told me that the papers were piled high in a room of the chateau, in such a de-
plorable state that they had to literally shovel many of them out” (WATERMAN, 2005).
6 Rue Du Chéra 79, Liège. This archive has not been seen by us. It had been inherited through his
son Walthère de Selys Longchamps, by his grandson Maurice de Selys Longchamps and his great-
grandson Michel de Selys Longchamps. This archive was stored at Longchamps and at Faulx-
-les-Tombes (the chateau belonging to the family of Michel de Selys Longchamps’ wife, baroness
J. de Moffarts d’Houchenée).
7 Rue de Vautier 29, Brussels. Benno Hinnekint has looked long ago through this correspondence.
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
8 A frequent name among Roman legionnaires.
9 During his lifetime Laurent de Selys Longchamps served in Liège under four political regimes:
the Prince-Bishops, the French domination, the Dutch government and the government of an in-
dependent Belgium (DUCHESNE, 1920).
10 Widow of Joseph Smith (1756-1806).
11 See WIKIPEDIA (2013), though some say in the left lower corner of the painting of Denise Gan-
dolphe appears “L’an.7”, meaning the year 7 (counting in years of the French Revolution, 1792
is the year ‘1’, so 7 would mean it was painted in 1799).
12 The style originated in and takes its name from the rule of Napoleon I in the First French Em-
pire, were it was intended to idealize Napoleon’s leadership and the French state.
13 In the elections of 4 June 1831, Laurent was one of the fourteen in favour of the regent, baron
Erasme Surlet Chokier (who was a neighbour, living in a chateau at 10 km from Waremme) as
head of state, but it was Leopold I von Saksen Coburg who was chosen as King of the new king-
dom of Belgium (DUCHESNE, 1914-1920).
14 This house stood in a green neighbourhood though in the centre of Paris, close to the later erect-
ed Arc de Triomphe. In 1880, his birth house was replaced by a large building which is still there
(GOOGLE EARTH, 2012).
15 Likewise his parents thought it better for his education to have tutors in Paris rather than in Long-
16 COEN (1982: 19) claims that the family moved in 1826 from Paris to Longchamps (after the death
of his grandmother on mothers side). This must be considered incorrect.
17 Hoffmann as a tutor is mentioned for the rst time at Longchamps from 4 September to 30 Oc-
tober 1827. His last lessons were given on 10 October 1829, after which Hoffmann left to Paris.
He returned a year later for a few weeks to check the receivables of his former pupil.
18 According to CAULIER-MATHY & HAESENNE-PEREMANS (2008: xxiv) Laurent had two
other chateaus, in Flanders at Hasselbroek (in the village of Jeuk ‘Goyer’ on behalf of his moth-
er the baroness of Bormans de Hasselbroeck) (DUCHESNE, 1914-1920) and in Ordingen (‘Or-
dange’), respectively 4 and 13 km North of Longchamps.
19 Since September 2011 a ve star hotel and a restaurant ‘Le Selys’ opened in this chateau. Though
at some distance from the Boulevard de la Sauvenière, it is connected with it.
20 It was near the chateau at Colonster that Selys collected a female Cordulegaster that he could not
identify, but which he would later describe as C. bidentata Selys, 1843 (SELYS, 1843: 156) after he
obtained a male from elsewhere.
21 His excursions are described in numerous articles in 1863, 1869, 1870, 1871, 1874, 1877 etc. (COEN,
22 Around 1840 in Belgium and The Netherlands mean life expectancy was around 40 years, dropping
to about 18 years in the poorest neighbourhoods of Brussels (at around 1830; SMELLINCKX,
23 Selys planned to visit Belfast in autumn 1844 (THOMPSON, 1849: 283), but this trip did not ma-
24 Likely the bicycle was given him as a present on his 80th birthday on 25 May 1893. First he rode
only one minute on the bicycle, while it was a bit heavy (Diary: 26 May 1893), a few days later he
visited someone in the neighbourhood by bike (Diary: 30 May 1893).
25 Most often La Marraine (4 times).
26 Most often Faust (19 times), but he was not always enthusiastic about the operas visited: both
the Walkure (a 5 hour opera by Wagner; Diary: 1 April 1887) and Samson and Delaila by Saint-
-Saëns (Diary: 26 January 1893) he found boring.
27 Who is likely the one who recorded the list of four Odonata species at Vogelsanck on 5-25 May
1841 (Diary: p. 227-228), while Selys himself was in The Netherlands.
28 He arrived on 11th September. Next day they studied myrmeleons and ‘Neuroptera non-odonates’.
The 13th September they kept on studying the Neuroptera of Belgium, took a glance (‘coup d’oeil’)
Life and work of M.E. de Selys Longchamps 397
at the gomphids and started with the rst decade of libellules. The 14th they studied the exotic
agrions and took a glance on the second decade of libellules. The 15th they nished the real agri-
ons and took a glance on Telebasis and Cordulia. The 16th they studied the libellules of Europe,
the third decade of exotic dragonies and a glance on the Orthoptera.
29 Now: Common Vole, Microtus arvalis Pallas, 1778.
30 He arrived at Cambridge on 12 October 1867 (CALVERT, 1893: 315).
31 Nevertheless he named three animal species after him: two odonates Orthetrum ramburii (Selys,
1848) (now regarded a subspecies or synonym of Orthetrum coerulescens), Ischnura ramburii (Selys
in Sagra, 1857) and a cave barklice (Psyllipsocus ramburii Selys, 1872).
32 For the reason why he started studying insects see CALVERT (1939).
33 Förster rst contacted Selys before 15 February 1896. On this date, Selys send a reply to him, which
gives an idea of how Selys planned and prepared the publication of his research (SCHNEIDER
& SIMONS, 2012). Selys and Förster were since then regularly in touch with each other. Selys
did much work for him, often checking his identications and papers (e.g. Diary 5 October 1896
“Worked for Förster and wrote him a letter”). After the death of Selys, the tutor role was taken
over by Edward Williamson with whom he exchanged many letters and specimens.
34 Selys must have been given there a Gomphus, which he described in 1840 as Gomphus simillimus,
with type locality Aix-en-Provence. This species does not y in March and cannot have been cap-
tured by Selys himself.
35 The last letter had only put his name on the cover of a publication in the Japanese fauna collec-
tion by Philipp Von Siebold, while many people had cooperated in the project (BROUWER, 1953)
and Schlegel did most of the descriptions. The Von Siebold collection would be the main source
for the diverse publications by Selys of the Odonata of Japan, which numbered 67 species in his
1862 publication (SELYS, 1862).
36 When the Dutch Entomological Society was invited by the Belgian Entomological Society to con-
gratulate their honorary member Selys on his 80th birthday in 1893, Albarda offered he would
deliver a letter of congratulation to him (ANONYMOUS, 1893).
37 This must be the genus Thore (later Polythore).
38 Bought for 25 pound sterling’ (which would probably be €1,25 a piece in 2013). On 11 November
1866 he completed the pinning of the dragonies of Bates and 20 February 1867 he completed
inserting the dragonies of Bates in his collection.
39 This new species descriptions were of two new small mammals and a new mammal genus (SELYS,
1836), of which the European pine vole Microtus subterraneus Selys, 1836 described from Belgium
and occurring throughout central Europe, is still a valid species.
40 On the rst collection he wrote in 1841 he put on pin in his collection over 300 other Neuroptera
(Névroptères) from the collection Latreille (Diary: 31 January 1841). The last three collections,
were those from which RAMBUR (1842) described all odonate species. The [Neuroptera, including
Odonata] collections of Rambur arrived at Longchamps in 1845, after half a year of delay (Diary:
23 March 1845). Rambur had described 129 odonate species, 25 subspecies and 123 synonyms.
41 Wilhelm Gottlieb Schneider (1814-1889; see Bridges, 1994: x.127).
42 His other holdings contained an extensive collection of European birds and mammals (CAL-
VERT, 1901). From all world families he had representatives and he was most proud on his Great
Auk (Alca impennis, now: Pinguinus impennis) and Hoopoe Starling (Fregilupus varius). His egg-
-collection, however, when visited by August Blasius in 1884, had not been looked at for 40 years
(BLASIUS, 1901: 367). Since July 1877 he had engaged Georges Minnen (1836-1912) as curator
(“conservator”) for his collection.
43 The rst three publications on Lepidoptera from Belgium were all by Selys, published in 1837,
1844 and 1857 (DE PRINS & STEEMAN, 2010). There he described some new species, but these
turned out to be synonyms. One valid subspecies remains: Melitaea athalia navarina Selys, 1845.
The collection mentioned earlier is composed entirely of Rhopalocera, and contains almost all
Palaearctic species. He wrote ve papers on Orthoptera and published at least one valid non-
M.Th. Wasscher & H.J. Dumont
-European species, Acanthogryllus brunneri (Selys, 1868), and two European forms: Tetrix subu-
lata attenuata Selys, 1862 and Chortippus parallelus explicata Selys, 1862. All small insect groups
in those days (except eas) were placed in the ‘Neuroptera’. Most people describing dragonies
studied those insects as well. So friends like Hagen and McLachlan, as well as Rambur, worked
on Psocoptera. Selys named at least one cave barklice (Psyllipsocus ramburii Selys, 1872). Lastly,
a valid Ascalaphidae described by Selys, is Cordulecerus maclachlani Selys, 1871.
44 Among small mammals, he described several mice in the period 1836-1847. As valid species are
considered Microtus subterraneus Selys, 1836, M. savii (Selys, 1838), M. duodecimcostatus (Selys,
1839). As valid subspecies Microtus oeconomus arenicola (Selys, 1841), the Dutch tundra vole. Selys
also published about 15 invalid mammal species (WILSON & REEDER, 2005). He published
three valid bird species and one subspecies: the Red Rail Aphanapteryx bonasia (Selys, 1848), the
Réunion Swamphen Porphyrio coerulescens (Selys, 1848) and the extinct Réunion Ibis Threskior-
nis solitaries (Selys, 1848) and a subspecies of the Willow Tit, Parus montanus borealis Selys, 1843.
Selys was the rst to start making notes on the migration behavior of birds in the period 1841 to
1846 (SELYS & QUETELET, 1848). In this article he also included observations of many other
Western European countries and much later this type of observations was followed by others e.g.
in Russia (1855) and Germany (1874) (VORDERMAN, 1886). During his entire life Selys was
involved with birds for his scientic career, his appointment as President of Honour of the In-
ternational Congress on birds in Paris a few months before his death (Diary: 26 June 1900) must
have been a great personal triumph.
45 Hagen, who had drawn the illustrations for these two monographs, also made drawings for the
projected ‘Monographie des agrionines’, which was never published. These drawings were taken
to Cambridge (USA) by Hagen (CALVERT, 1901) and are still there at the MCZ Archives (li-
brarian Robert Young, pers. comm. 2 April 2013).
46 Fauna of: New Guinea, Philippines, Japan, the Palaearctic region, Asia Minor, Sumatra, Kirgizia,
Burma and others (BLASIUS: 1901).
47 Seen on 30 October 2012 in Brussels.
48 Of the rst described species over later described species.
49 Although he might have preferred to use the French translation by GUÉRIN-MÉNEVILLE (1843).
50 The text and discussion of this code was published by BLANCHARD (1889).
51 A day later he received the ‘Grand cordon de l’Ordre de Léopold’ and on 27 May 1900 he was
succeeded in the Senate by baron Ancion (COEN, 1982: 129).
52 In his diary on 25 October he wrote notes on drawing of Xanthagrion’s of Chatham, which he
returned to Maurice de Luchin.
53 Before so often visited by him and in 2013 having the most futuristic railway station of northwest-
54 FRASER (1953), on Australian gomphids, has been published in the series, but cannot be regard-
ed as a real part of it.
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