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

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

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

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 for Hedysarum argenteum, with entries penned at different points of time. The reference to volume 2 of Pallas's Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs (1771–1776) at the bottom (“Pallas it. 3.2 p. 743”) is probably one of the last entries on a paper slip in Linnaeus's hand. The reference is confusing, since it seems to indicate book 2 of volume 3, whereas Pallas does in fact describe Hedysarum grandiflorum on p. 743 in book 2 of volume 2. Other references include J.G. Gmelin's Reise durch Sibirien, von dem Jahr 1733 bis 1743 (1752) and J. Amman's Stirpium rariorum in Imperio rutheno icones et descriptiones (1739). The slip also indicates that the plant was grown in the Uppsala Botanic Garden (“H.U.”), that its geographical origin was Siberia, and that it is a perennial (the symbol looking like the numbers 2 and 4 interlocked). Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper Slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.
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Figure 0002: Slip for Hedysarum argenteum, with entries penned at different points of time. The reference to volume 2 of Pallas's Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs (1771–1776) at the bottom (“Pallas it. 3.2 p. 743”) is probably one of the last entries on a paper slip in Linnaeus's hand. The reference is confusing, since it seems to indicate book 2 of volume 3, whereas Pallas does in fact describe Hedysarum grandiflorum on p. 743 in book 2 of volume 2. Other references include J.G. Gmelin's Reise durch Sibirien, von dem Jahr 1733 bis 1743 (1752) and J. Amman's Stirpium rariorum in Imperio rutheno icones et descriptiones (1739). The slip also indicates that the plant was grown in the Uppsala Botanic Garden (“H.U.”), that its geographical origin was Siberia, and that it is a perennial (the symbol looking like the numbers 2 and 4 interlocked). Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper Slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.

Mentions: The remaining slips consist of species descriptions, either based on specimens of new species sent to Linnaeus by his correspondents or travelling students, or based on information gleaned from new publications. Most of the slips concern exotic species – only 10% of them relate to European species. Each slip is headed by the name of the genus in capital letters at the top, followed by a diagnostic phrase describing the chief differences characteristic of the species, and with the “trivial” name, or specific epithet on the left hand side (Figure 2). The number of species per genus varies between a single one and up to 19 species in the case of the genus Erica. There are eight slips with descriptions of genera and species that carry no name, indicating that Linnaeus tended to describe unknown genera or species first, before he settled upon a name. In one case, Linnaeus added a note after the description saying “the same genus as 148 [ejusdem generis cum 148].” A paper slip with that number exists which shows that Linnaeus became clear about taxonomic affinities only after he had gone through a detailed description.51Figure 2.


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

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

Slip for Hedysarum argenteum, with entries penned at different points of time. The reference to volume 2 of Pallas's Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs (1771–1776) at the bottom (“Pallas it. 3.2 p. 743”) is probably one of the last entries on a paper slip in Linnaeus's hand. The reference is confusing, since it seems to indicate book 2 of volume 3, whereas Pallas does in fact describe Hedysarum grandiflorum on p. 743 in book 2 of volume 2. Other references include J.G. Gmelin's Reise durch Sibirien, von dem Jahr 1733 bis 1743 (1752) and J. Amman's Stirpium rariorum in Imperio rutheno icones et descriptiones (1739). The slip also indicates that the plant was grown in the Uppsala Botanic Garden (“H.U.”), that its geographical origin was Siberia, and that it is a perennial (the symbol looking like the numbers 2 and 4 interlocked). Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper Slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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Figure 0002: Slip for Hedysarum argenteum, with entries penned at different points of time. The reference to volume 2 of Pallas's Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs (1771–1776) at the bottom (“Pallas it. 3.2 p. 743”) is probably one of the last entries on a paper slip in Linnaeus's hand. The reference is confusing, since it seems to indicate book 2 of volume 3, whereas Pallas does in fact describe Hedysarum grandiflorum on p. 743 in book 2 of volume 2. Other references include J.G. Gmelin's Reise durch Sibirien, von dem Jahr 1733 bis 1743 (1752) and J. Amman's Stirpium rariorum in Imperio rutheno icones et descriptiones (1739). The slip also indicates that the plant was grown in the Uppsala Botanic Garden (“H.U.”), that its geographical origin was Siberia, and that it is a perennial (the symbol looking like the numbers 2 and 4 interlocked). Carl Linnaeus, “Botanical Paper Slips,” Library of the Linnean Society. By permission of the Linnean Society of London.
Mentions: The remaining slips consist of species descriptions, either based on specimens of new species sent to Linnaeus by his correspondents or travelling students, or based on information gleaned from new publications. Most of the slips concern exotic species – only 10% of them relate to European species. Each slip is headed by the name of the genus in capital letters at the top, followed by a diagnostic phrase describing the chief differences characteristic of the species, and with the “trivial” name, or specific epithet on the left hand side (Figure 2). The number of species per genus varies between a single one and up to 19 species in the case of the genus Erica. There are eight slips with descriptions of genera and species that carry no name, indicating that Linnaeus tended to describe unknown genera or species first, before he settled upon a name. In one case, Linnaeus added a note after the description saying “the same genus as 148 [ejusdem generis cum 148].” A paper slip with that number exists which shows that Linnaeus became clear about taxonomic affinities only after he had gone through a detailed description.51Figure 2.

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.