Just as the tower of Freiburg, which was given over to Marcgrave's use, was probably the first astronomical observatory ever erected in the southern hemisphere, so it is also probable that Marcgrave's observations of the southern stars were the first ever made in the history of the world. For this reason, even if we do not take into account their scientific value, their loss is irreparable.
Fate, however, has been kinder to us in the matter of Marcgrave's natural-history papers, since these have come down to us fairly complete. However, before taking up their history in any detail it will be necessary to advert to a very unpleasant topic, namely, the relations between Marcgrave and Piso.
The collection of material for the present paper had not gone very far when it was found that Marcgrave had written his "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ" in cipher. This with other indications led to the conclusion that the relations between himself and Piso were strained. To the unknown writer in Manget, all the principals in this expedition to Brazil were known personally; this he tells us in so many words. Also, he writes:
Further, this writer seems to have known of many things which he alleges would redound to anything but the credit of Piso. Making due allowance for the partisanship of this biographer, it does seem that Piso living had appropriated to himself much of the credit of Marcgrave dead. Further, it should be borne in mind that Piso went to Brazil as surgeon in chief to the expedition, his scientific work being incidental; while Marcgrave went as a scientist and student, his medical work being incidental. (Piso, Preface, 1648.) While in the 1648 folio, edited by Marcgrave's friend De Laet, Piso gives large credit to Marcgrave, in the 1658 folio, as we shall see later (De Laet having died in 1649 or 1650), he combines Marcgrave's work with his own, giving the latter credit in marginal references only.
In both the 1648 and 1658 folios Piso in the prefaces calls Marcgrave "meus domesticus." Even if we give this the most favorable translation, "of my household," it still indicates that Marcgrave was subordinate to him. Elsewhere there are given a number of instances in which Piso plainly means to convey the idea that he was chief of the
- The only one absolutely known to be missing is a paper on the geographical distribution of plants. This is stated on the authority of Driesen. Corroboratory is a statement by De Laet that he had sent to Marcgrave notes transcribed from Ximines, and specimens collected for him (De Laet) from the islands of America that Marcgrave might compare them with the plants of Brazil.