Robert Villatte Des Prûgnes Herbarium. Montluçon

The town of Montluçon and its Museum received by legacy in 1934 the Natural History collections belonging to Robert Villatte des Prûgnes.

The Robert Villatte des Prûgnes Herbarium is composed by 5 presses containing a total of 642 botanical sheets of well-preserved status, and very representative of the French, Auvergnat, and Bourbonnais areas. Just over half of this set, 338 sheets, come from the Augustin Grozieux de Laguérenne Herbarium, great-grandfather, on his mother side, of Robert Villatte des Prûgnes, who then collected the supplementary 304 sheets.

Augustin Grozieux de Laguérenne was born in 1781, and died in Moulins on May 2nd 1863. He was a land owner, embassy attaché in Russia, Curator of the Municipal Library of Moulins, writer, historian, and botanist.

His botanical collections probably date back to the first half of the 19th century. The labels of this set rarely mention localities, only 64 sheets are annotated, and they mostly come from the departments of Yonne and Puy-de-Dome.

However, we find rather uncommon or rare plants, and the identifications are indeed valid, which show the great botanical knowledge of the author. This herbarium is thus of significant value for the general knowledge of the Bourbonnais flora, and the monitoring of its evolution.

Robert Villatte des Prûgnes, never knew his great-grandfather who died in 1863, but did inherit his herbarium. His father, Albert Villatte des Prûgne (1845-1920), land owner in Vallon-en-Sully (Allier), either influenced by Grozieux de Laguerenne or not, presumably introduced his son to natural sciences, who then began a collection of mammals and birds in 1880. Robert resumed his father work and will diversify the fields included in his collections.

The Robert Villatte des Prûgnes Herbarium, 304 sheets made by Robert Villatte des Prûgnes himself, is mostly composed of species collected in Auvergne, more than half of them in Allier. Other departments, either adjoining or of central France, are represented: Haute-Loire, Corrèze, Ardèche, Aveyron, and other remote are as such as Pas-de-Calais, Savoie, Ain, etc. though in smaller proportions.

Robert Villatte des Prûgnes was born in Montluçon on April 16th 1869, and died at 96 years old in Vallon-en-Sully, on February 24th 1965. He was an agricultural engineer, member of the High Council of Agriculture, member of the Academy of Agriculture, correspondent of the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle. He was also team leader when practicing the Chasse à Courre, collaborator of several magazines (La Vie rustique, Le Chasseur français). Farmer, hunter, fisherman, naturalist, historian, and writer between 1897 and 1951, he published around 40 books. He devoted his life to the study of natural sciences, which earned him the insignia of Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur (commander of the French Legion of Honor).

Gilles Thebaud :