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Carl Linnaeus's botanical paper slips (1767-1773).

Charmantier I, Müller-Wille S - Intellect Hist Rev (2014)

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Affiliation: Department of History, University of Exeter , Exeter , UK.

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Towards the very end of his academic career, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) – best known today for his “sexual” system of plant classification and his binomial nomenclature – used little paper slips of a standard size to process information on plants and animals that reached him on a daily basis... Both volumes had nearly 600 pages; the first Mantissa alone contained 25 new genera and – as Linnaeus explained himself – “more than 400 of the rarest species, which partly have never been referred to a particular genus, and partly are completely new. ” It is likely, then, that the title rather expressed the fact that Linnaeus had failed to integrate new information into further complete and updated editions of his taxonomic works, thus reducing the value of the book... As we will see in the next part of our paper, it was Mantissa plantarum altera for which Linnaeus first used his paper slips, and the quoted passage from the preface to this book is the only instance, as far as we can see, where Linnaeus makes explicit reference to this new working method... Linnaeus initially seems to have used the paper slips much like he had used loose sheets for his Species plantarum in the late 1740s, that is, as a preparatory manuscript... In the case of specimens sent by collectors, it is often possible to relate the respective slip to the letter sent by the correspondent and to a specimen that is still preserved in Linnaeus's herbarium... On the likely assumption that Linnaeus processed information contained in letters shortly after their receipt, it is possible to conclude that Linnaeus started the process of collecting information on paper slips just after the publication of the first Mantissa in 1767, and that he did not stop using paper slips after Mantissa plantarum altera was published in 1771... In this case, a pair of slips drawn up from different sources was used over a period of more than two years to systematically collate information and settle on taxonomic assignments (Figure 3)... It is highly likely, although impossible to demonstrate conclusively, that this went along with a re-shuffling of the paper slips... Linnaeus now had two herbarium specimens carrying the same name, and a letter to Bäck on 12 September 1773 mentions that he had “received so many of this genus [i.e. Ixia] that they need close examination. ” In the course of this examination, Linnaeus apparently reached the conclusion that the two specimens of Ixia crispa actually represented different species, since he changed the trivial name of Sparrman's specimen from Ixia crispa to Ixia undulata... They bear a striking resemblance to Linnaeus's later slips (Figure 7)... It is tempting to conclude that, while cataloguing the Queen's collection, the first seeds were planted for the later independent “invention” of paper slips by Solander and Linnaeus... In the stages of Linnaeus's working process, they occupied a sort of middle ground: while the first step was to draw up a list of specimens provisionally assigned to species, the paper slips allowed Linnaeus to note down their characteristics, to compare species with each other, and to allocate names to them.

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Slip describing the genus Salacia, according to the genus description layout found in Genera Plantarum (1737). The information on this card was published in Mantissa 1771, p. 159, struck through to indicate that it had been used, and reused on the back for the genus Psoralea. Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.
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Figure 0001: Slip describing the genus Salacia, according to the genus description layout found in Genera Plantarum (1737). The information on this card was published in Mantissa 1771, p. 159, struck through to indicate that it had been used, and reused on the back for the genus Psoralea. Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.

Mentions: In order to describe and reconstruct the use of Linnaeus's paper slips, we will concentrate on the 901 botanical slips. All in all, they relate to 449 different plant genera. With a few exceptions of slips bearing miscellaneous notes of unclear significance, such as a list of plants “put together by the gardener [Hortulano commisit],” the slips can be divided into two kinds. Sixty-four cards consist of morphological descriptions of individual genera that describe the main features of the flower and the fruit, in a layout similar to that in Genera plantarum (1737). Thus, under a heading citing the genus name in capital letters, we find detailed morphological descriptions of the seven main parts of flower and fruit, always in the same order and prefixed with an abbreviation indicating each part: calyx (“CAL.”), corolla (“COR.”), stamen (“STAM.”), pistil (“PIST.”), perianth (“PER.”), seed (“SEM”). Occasionally, Linnaeus adds observations (“OBS.”) highlighting peculiarities or discussing the taxonomic status of the genus in question (see Figure 1).Figure 1.


Carl Linnaeus's botanical paper slips (1767-1773).

Charmantier I, Müller-Wille S - Intellect Hist Rev (2014)

Slip describing the genus Salacia, according to the genus description layout found in Genera Plantarum (1737). The information on this card was published in Mantissa 1771, p. 159, struck through to indicate that it had been used, and reused on the back for the genus Psoralea. Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4837604&req=5

Figure 0001: Slip describing the genus Salacia, according to the genus description layout found in Genera Plantarum (1737). The information on this card was published in Mantissa 1771, p. 159, struck through to indicate that it had been used, and reused on the back for the genus Psoralea. Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.
Mentions: In order to describe and reconstruct the use of Linnaeus's paper slips, we will concentrate on the 901 botanical slips. All in all, they relate to 449 different plant genera. With a few exceptions of slips bearing miscellaneous notes of unclear significance, such as a list of plants “put together by the gardener [Hortulano commisit],” the slips can be divided into two kinds. Sixty-four cards consist of morphological descriptions of individual genera that describe the main features of the flower and the fruit, in a layout similar to that in Genera plantarum (1737). Thus, under a heading citing the genus name in capital letters, we find detailed morphological descriptions of the seven main parts of flower and fruit, always in the same order and prefixed with an abbreviation indicating each part: calyx (“CAL.”), corolla (“COR.”), stamen (“STAM.”), pistil (“PIST.”), perianth (“PER.”), seed (“SEM”). Occasionally, Linnaeus adds observations (“OBS.”) highlighting peculiarities or discussing the taxonomic status of the genus in question (see Figure 1).Figure 1.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of History, University of Exeter , Exeter , UK.

AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED EXCERPT
Please rate it.

Towards the very end of his academic career, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) – best known today for his “sexual” system of plant classification and his binomial nomenclature – used little paper slips of a standard size to process information on plants and animals that reached him on a daily basis... Both volumes had nearly 600 pages; the first Mantissa alone contained 25 new genera and – as Linnaeus explained himself – “more than 400 of the rarest species, which partly have never been referred to a particular genus, and partly are completely new. ” It is likely, then, that the title rather expressed the fact that Linnaeus had failed to integrate new information into further complete and updated editions of his taxonomic works, thus reducing the value of the book... As we will see in the next part of our paper, it was Mantissa plantarum altera for which Linnaeus first used his paper slips, and the quoted passage from the preface to this book is the only instance, as far as we can see, where Linnaeus makes explicit reference to this new working method... Linnaeus initially seems to have used the paper slips much like he had used loose sheets for his Species plantarum in the late 1740s, that is, as a preparatory manuscript... In the case of specimens sent by collectors, it is often possible to relate the respective slip to the letter sent by the correspondent and to a specimen that is still preserved in Linnaeus's herbarium... On the likely assumption that Linnaeus processed information contained in letters shortly after their receipt, it is possible to conclude that Linnaeus started the process of collecting information on paper slips just after the publication of the first Mantissa in 1767, and that he did not stop using paper slips after Mantissa plantarum altera was published in 1771... In this case, a pair of slips drawn up from different sources was used over a period of more than two years to systematically collate information and settle on taxonomic assignments (Figure 3)... It is highly likely, although impossible to demonstrate conclusively, that this went along with a re-shuffling of the paper slips... Linnaeus now had two herbarium specimens carrying the same name, and a letter to Bäck on 12 September 1773 mentions that he had “received so many of this genus [i.e. Ixia] that they need close examination. ” In the course of this examination, Linnaeus apparently reached the conclusion that the two specimens of Ixia crispa actually represented different species, since he changed the trivial name of Sparrman's specimen from Ixia crispa to Ixia undulata... They bear a striking resemblance to Linnaeus's later slips (Figure 7)... It is tempting to conclude that, while cataloguing the Queen's collection, the first seeds were planted for the later independent “invention” of paper slips by Solander and Linnaeus... In the stages of Linnaeus's working process, they occupied a sort of middle ground: while the first step was to draw up a list of specimens provisionally assigned to species, the paper slips allowed Linnaeus to note down their characteristics, to compare species with each other, and to allocate names to them.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus