Shortly after the completion of G.A. Boulenger’s monumental Catalogue of the Fresh-water fishes of Africa in the British Museum (Natural History), Vol. I to IV, 1909 -1916 John Treadwell Nichols and Ludlow Griscom published a report on the "Fresh-water fishes of the Congo basin obtained by the American Museum Congo Expedition, 1909 – 1915". The work was based on a large collection of fish specimens that had been assembled by Herbert Lang and
James Chapin during the course of an expedition that took them across the width of today's
Democratic Republic of Congo. Lang and Chapin entered the Congo basin in June, 1909 and left September, 1915 but unlike previous expeditions which focused on collection of large mammal trophies and ethnographic artifacts this expedition sought to document more fully the entire fauna of the region. Their collections included more than 100,000 invertebrate specimens, as well as large numbers of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Of these, the fishes alone number nearly 6,000 specimens gathered from 23 localities along the course of the Congo. Nichols and Griscom describe 4 new genera and 29 new species and although a number of these taxa are currently regarded as synonyms, we present here a photographic gallery of images, photographs and xrays, arranged by family, of the type specimens described by Nichols and Griscom and currently housed in the ichthyology department of the American Museum.
James Chapin’s fish watercolors
In addition to large collections Lang took over 10,000 photographs and Chapin produced about 300 watercolor and ink drawings of specimens and artifacts. Nichols and Griscom provided four color-plate reproductions illustrating thirteen of Chapin’s fish watercolors. Regarding the difficulties associated with the production of these beautiful images they wrote that “... in the forest regions the moisture was sometimes so great that during the process of painting these sketches had to be held over the fire, to dry one shade after the other so that the different colors would not flow together.” These illustrations, painted in the field from living, freshly captured specimens, and of great accuracy were among the first records of their kind for fishes from the Congo basin. Sadly, due to financial constraints, Nichols and Griscom were unable to publish reproductions of the 15 other fish watercolors that Chapin had painted. These additional images are now available for viewing here.