Bureaucracy: La creación

La creación: historia natural, Division de la obra; zoologia ó reino animal, traducida y arreglada de la ultima edicion alemana de A.E. Brehm. Barcelona: Montaner y Simon, 1880.


La creación is a nine-volume set of natural histories based on the wide ranging travels of zoologist Alfred Edmund Brehm (1829-1884). This Spanish edition was published in 1880 in Barcelona, four years before the author’s death; it was translated from the latest German edition. Brehm, a German zoologist and illustrator, went on expeditions to Africa, Scandinavia, Siberia, and Egypt, among other places. On those travels he collected information about and, in some cases, live specimens of, the animals and people he encountered. The first volume, shown here, displays racial and anatomical classifications of humans and animals. While Brehm’s title promises to describe the animal kingdom, the book begins with descriptions and classifications of human bodies—skulls, vertebrae, and so on—before proceeding to zoology.

The lithographs of human skulls and brightly colored illustrations of five “razes,” or races, participated in nineteenth-century projects to determine differences among humans based on the skull’s size, volume, shape, and angles. The goal of such study was to classify humans in racial categories, a practice that came to be known as “scientific racism.” According to many naturalists, there were five races, the Caucasian, Mongolian, American, Malay, and Ethiopian, which could be correlated to the earth’s continents. By positing separate origins for each race, such theories departed from older views that all humans came from a common ancestor, Adam.

Brehm discusses several racial classification schemes, proposed by men of science such as Carl Linnaeus, Georges-Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon, and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach.  He then offers a discussion of five human races, white, red, yellow, brown, and black, each differentiated according to skull size and shape.  In addition to colorful illustrations depicting each race, their clothing, and objects that provided cultural information, the book includes detailed lithographs, showing the range of human types, from illustrations of Celtic skulls to those of the head of a “Venus hotentote” (clv).  For example, Brehm compares two skulls, the craneo del negro and the craneo del europeo, or the Negro skull and European skull, with the skulls of gorillas (5).  The images and text suggest that the elongated African American skull more closely resembled the gorilla skull than it did the European skull. Such images supported a popular theory “that Caucasians had big brains” and “blacks had small ones” (40). The color illustrations of the five races likewise support such assumptions about white superiority. For example, an illustration of raza blanca, or the white race, shows griegos (Greeks) looking very refined, well-dressed and groomed. The image of raza negra, or the black race, pictures two “cafres” (kaffirs; a term for South African blacks, now considered offensive) who are only partially clothed. Another illustration portrays a group of Eskimos huddled around a fire, outside a tent, with fish lying on the ground. The depictions make the white race the basis for comparison, by drawing attention to how different the other races are from the white races in clothing, habitat, and even skull size.  Brehm applied these same anatomical methodologies to classify animals, from gorillas to skunks, thus suggesting that anatomical—and thus racial—differences were inherent in nature. His written descriptions and images present an orderly, classified world in which both humans and animals fit securely into stable categories that supported a racially stratified social order.

Find La creacion in the UNT Libraries Catalog.