Great Auk's Egg

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Abstract

IMAGINATION has long had a large share in the accounts given of the Gare-fowl or Great Auk, notwithstanding the efforts of those who have tried to set forth nothing but the truth on the subject, yet I do not call to mind meeting with so “many inventions” regarding it as have appeared in the newspapers within the last week, on the occasion of the recent sale of a specimen of the egg of that bird. I should occupy too much space were I to dwell upon them; but I would ask for the admission of a few lines in which to state what is known exactly of the origin of that specimen, which I well remember in the collection of the late Mr. Yarrell. He told me, as he told others of his friends, that he bought it in Paris; and, to the best of my belief, not many years after the peace of 1815. In a little curiosity-shop of mean appearance, he saw a number of eggs hanging on a string; he recognised one of them as an egg of Alca impennis, and asking their price was told that they were one franc apiece, except the large one, which from its size was worth two francs. He paid the money and walked away with the egg in his hat. That is the whole story on which so imposing an edifice has been built, and the only “variant” of it deserving of consideration is to the effect that the price of the big egg was five instead of two francs. I may add that this-simple story was published by the late owner of the egg, the Baron Louis d'Hamonville, in the Bulletin of the French Zoological Society for 1891 (tome xvi. p. 34).

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