COLLECTIONS | COLLECTOR

Hans Leder (1843-1921)

Hans Leder was born in 1843 in Jauernig/Javornik near Troppau, the capital of Austrian Silesia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, today Opava in the Czech Republic. Modest family circumstances did not allow him to complete his studies at the Mountain Academy in Schemnitz. In 1867 he left Europe for northern Africa to study French and Arabic languages and started collecting entomologica. He returned home in 1872 and left again in 1875 for a two-year research expedition to the Caucasus. This journey turned out to be unexpectedly successful: Leder discovered a variety of hitherto unknown insect species, which were later classified by European specialists. They all bear the name of the collector, “Lederi”.

He returned to the Caucasus nearly every year to continue his entomological activities. In 1882, after his marriage, he and his young wife moved to the German settlement of Helenendorf near Elisabethpol, where the family stayed until their return to Austria in 1888. In 1891, Grand Duke Nicolai Mikhailovoich of Russia, president of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, sent Leder to southern Siberia primarily to continue his entomological work. After some months in the Sajan mountains, he was not too satisfied with his findings and decided to move southwards, to Mongolia. In April 1892 he left Irkutsk and  reached the Mongolian capital Urga (Ikh Khüree; present-day Ulaanbaatar) at the beginning of May 1892. There he recruited a small caravan to travel westwards to the Erdene Zuu Monastery, built in 1586 under the rule of Abadai Khan at Karakorum, the former centre of the Mongolian empire (see Historic Travels).

On his first Mongolian journey he was still mainly collecting insects – today they are part of the collections in the natural history museums in Vienna (Austria) and Budapest (Hungary). Leder returned to Mongolia several times: his stays can be retraced for the years 1899/1900, 1902, and 1904/05. His collecting focus gradually shifted from entomologica to ethnographica. By 1905 he had become a renowned collector of Mongolian ethnographic items, mainly Buddhist ritual artefacts. He died in 1921 in Katharein/ Troppau. (M.-K. Lang)