In June, the CLG ventured outside Cambridge to visit the Library and Archives of the Linnean Society of London, housed in the beautiful Burlington House.
The Linnean Society, a renowned biological society founded in 1788, is home to much of the collections of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish naturalist and botanist world famous for his groundbreaking work on taxonomy.
The Linnean society’s founder, Sir James Edwards Smith (1759-1828), purchased the collection from the then deceased Linnaeus’ wife in 1784. According to Librarian Lynda Brooks, who was kind enough to give us a tour, legend tells that the King of Sweden was so outraged that the collection was leaving its native country he ordered a ship after it in an attempt to bring it back.
The collection itself is a rich mix of books (both Linnaeus’ own publications and his personal library), manuscripts, and natural specimens, including insects, butterflies and plants - even dried fish! Giant beetles, colourful butterflies, and delicate flowers are all strikingly well preserved.
As well as seeing the Linnean collection, we had the chance to look round the society’s elegant library, home to much old and modern material on natural history and related sciences.
Many of the items in the Linnean collection have been digitised and can be viewed online, via the Linnean Society’s website: http://linnean-online.org/linnaeus.html
- This blog post was contributed by Emily Downes, former CLG Membership Secretary