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Link: • Johan Frederik Gronovius to Carl Linnaeus, 7 September 1735 n.s.
Dated Sept. 1735 7º. Sent from Leiden (Netherlands) to (). Written in Latin.

Lugd[uni] Bat[avorum], Sept[embris] 1735 7o

Vir Doctissime

Fidem persolvo, et quicquid de Optimo HoustounoHouston, William (1695-1733).
British. Surgeon. Studied at Leiden
under Boerhaave. Went with the South Sea
Company to Central America and the West
resciscere potui, tecum communico.[1]

Ann[o] 1732 ex America redux, colonias Hispanorum Americanas petijt, ut medicamenta ibidem simplicia, Ialappam, Contragervam (quam Dorsteniam PlumerijPlumier, Charles (1646-1704).
French. Botanist, travelled in Central
America and the Carribean. Linnaeus
generally approved of the descriptions
in his richly illustrated botanical
esse detexit) Zarzaparillam &c. colligeret, secumque in Georgiam, novam Anglorum coloniam, deduceret[a][a] : <imp>[deduceret ex
adduceret alt. Gronovius]
et ibidem coleret.[2] Sequenti autem anno debili et infirma utens valetudine in phthisin incidit, quo tempore ultimas literas ad Millerum dedit, quae tenorem ultimae voluntatis habebant, atque in iis Amicum suum MillerumMiller, Philip (1691-1771).
British. Gardener of the Chelsea Physic
Garden. Corresponded with many
botanists. His rich herbarium was sold
to Joseph Banks. Correspondent of
, hominem integerrimum et doctissimum, Executorem suum statuit, desiderans ut Ille specimina plantarum Americanarum quae in itinere collegit, inter amicos distribueret, inter quos et me numeravit. Morbo invalescente 14 Augusti anni 1733 supremum diem vidit[b][b] : <imp>[obijt ante
vidit cancel. Gronovius]
.[3] Dom[inus] Miller omnes nervos intendit ut chartas ejus et observationes possit sibi comparare[c][c] : <imp>[comparare ex
communicare alt. Gronovius]
, quas cum Eruditis communicare in animo habet.[4]

Dominus AmmanAmman, Johann (1707-1741).
Swiss/Russian?. Curator of Hans Sloane’s
natural history collection. Professor of
botany at the Imperial Academy of
Sciences at St Petersburg. Correspondent
of Linnaeus.
Anno 1731 Membrum Societatis Anglicanae Electus descriptionem Bandurae Societati obtulit; nunc Petropoli professor missus est in Camkatchky, ut naturalia observet.[5]

In altera parte hujus Epistolae adscripsi quaedam quae mihi difficilia occurrunt in Prima parte Tabulae Sexualis, quorum explicationem desidero quando tempus tantum permittit. Adjunxi quoque emendatius exemplar, quod perlegere potes et hac ipsa nocte responsum dare, ut possit imprimi.

Vale et saluta Dominum CliffortiumClifford, George (1685-1760).
Dutch. Banker and merchant in Amsterdam,
Linnaeus’s benefactor. Owner of
Hartecamp and its botanical garden
outside Haarlem. Correspondent of

Joh[annes] Fred[ericus] Gronovius

Inter Pentandria monogynia ponis
Rhamnus T. cervi spina XXII.7. Mihi videtur corrigendum 3 pro 7.[6] Nam inter Dioecesia[7] IVandria apponis V.1. Rhamnus cervi spina D.
Quid sibi volunt haec
inter Hexandria trigynia Acetoso T.VI.2
inter Octandria tetragynia Paris III.1
inter Dodecandria digynia Agrimonia V.2.
Agrimoniae autem nullibi meministi sed quidem Agrimonoidis inter Pentandria digynia.
inter Dodecandria trigynia[d][d] : <imp>[trigynia ex
digynia alt. Gronovius]
§ XXX. Euph. Tithym.
Dein quid sibi vult inter Icosandria polygynia Tormentillo[sic][e][e] : <imp> The printed version of
Systema naturae has the form

Si mutanda quaedam sint, ilico moneas. Deinde in secunda parte Tabulae Sexualis quae imprimenda erit, invenio titulos ablativo casu editos, quos video te in priore parte Tabulae mutasse in Nominativum, quocirca quaero an eos in sequenti tabula etiam nominativo casu producere velis.[8] E[xempli] g[ratia]:
inter Polyandria
    a calice caduco    calix caducus
    b calice persistente        calix persistens
g calice tabescente    calix tabescens
inter Didynamia
    a petali labio superiore nullo    petali labium superius nullum
    b petali labium superius erectum
    g petali labium superius concavum
    d petali labium superiu galeatum
inter Tetradynamia
    a pericarpio uniloculari    pericarpium uniloculare
b pericarpio 2locul. dissep. opposito    pericarpium 2locul. dissep. oppositum
g pericarpio 2locul. dissep. parall.    pericarpium 2locul. dissep. parall.
    biloc. melius sonat
inter Diadelphia
    a fructu siliculoso    fructus siliculosus
    b fructu incurvo irregulari    fructus incurvus irregularis
    g fructu leguminoso ordinario    fructus leguminosus ordinarius
    d fructu 2loculari    fructus bilocularis
inter Syngenesia
    a flore simplici    flos simplex
    b semiflosculosi[f][f] : <imp>[flore ante
semiflosculosi del. Gronovius]
    g flosculosi T.
inter Syngenesia polygamia superflua
    a radio petalis destituto    radium petalis destitutum
    b radiati T. calice semigloboso
    g radiati T. calice vantricolo [sic][g][g] : <imp> The word
vantricolo is obviously a
misreading by Gronovius. In the printed
version we read ventricoso.

Inter Dioecia[h][h] : <imp>[Dioecia ex
Dioeces corr. Gronovius]
polyandria ponitur Jussieva cui pro Synonymo apponitur Arbor Ilicis folio Boerh. Scire debes Dominum Houstonum constituisse genus quod Jussievam appellavit, cujus duas recensuit species, quarum una est Jussievia herbacea spinosissima urens Houst. Altera Jussieva arborea minus spinosa floribus umbellatis albis, foliis aconiti ... ratibus [?] Houst.
Nullibi autem descripta hactenus est.[9]


Johan Frederik Gronovius communicates to Linnaeus all the information he has been able to gather about William Houstoun who died in 1733, having appointed Philip Miller as his executor. It was Miller’s task to distribute among Houstoun’s friends the specimens of plants he had collected during his travels in America. Gronovius says he belongs to these friends. Furthermore, he reports that Miller is trying very hard to acquire the sheets and observations left by Houstoun in order to make them known to the entire world of learning.

Next, Gronovius provides some biographical details about Johann Amman, fellow of the Royal Society and professor of botany in St. Petersburg.

In the second part of his letter, Gronovius gives a detailed list of difficulties occurring in the first part of “Regnum vegetabile”, a clean copy of which has been sent together with the letter. Linnaeus is asked to elucidate the points indicated by Gronovius and to send back the copy that night so that it can be printed. Next, Gronovius raises some problems regarding the second part of “Regnum vegetabile” which has to be printed. The first problem concerns Linnaeus’s inconsistent use of the cases. For the description of plants, Linnaeus uses the ablative case in the first part of “Regnum vegetabile”, whereas he has used the nominative case in the first part. The second problem concerns the genus Jussieva included by Linnaeus under the Dioecia polyandria. Gronovius informs Linnaeus that Houstoun established a genus named Jussieva which contained two distinct species. To Gronovius’s knowledge, the genus established by Houstoun has not yet been described.


a. original holograph (LS, V, 365-366). [1] [2] [3]


<imp>[deduceret ex adduceret alt. Gronovius]
<imp>[obijt ante vidit cancel. Gronovius]
<imp>[comparare ex communicare alt. Gronovius]
<imp>[trigynia ex digynia alt. Gronovius]
<imp> The printed version of Systema naturae has the form Tormentilla.
<imp>[flore ante semiflosculosi del. Gronovius]
<imp> The word vantricolo is obviously a misreading by Gronovius. In the printed version we read ventricoso.
<imp>[Dioecia ex Dioeces corr. Gronovius]


In all likelihood, Gronovius’s account was based on information sent to him by his friend Philip Miller, who was a close friend of Houstoun and acted as his executor. See Stearns, Science , 329; Le Rougetel, The Chelsea gardener: Philip Miller 1691–1771Le Rougetel, H. The Chelsea
gardener: Philip Miller 1691-1771

(London 1990).
, 105.
After his medical studies at the University of Leiden (1727-1729), William Houstoun traveled to the West Indies and Central and South America. As can be inferred from Gronovius’s account, which was subsequently corrected in his letter to Linnaeus of 2 October 1735Letter L0050, he returned to England in the autumn of 1731. On 3 October 1732 he had contracted with the Georgia trustees to sail to the Spanish colonies of America in order to collect vine cuttings and other useful plants which were to be cultivated in Georgia. See further Stearns, Science , 328-329. Gronovius’s account was duly taken over by Linnaeus in his Bibliotheca botanicaLinnaeus, Carl Bibliotheca
botanica recensens libros plus mille de
plantis huc usque editos, secundum
systema auctorum naturale in classes,
ordines, genera & species
dispositos, additis editionis loco,
tempore, forma, lingua etc. cum
explicatione Fundamentorum botanicorum
pars prima
(Amsterdam 1736).
, Additamenta, p. 151.
Gronovius reports that Houstoun died from phthisis; according to Boulger (Boulger, “Houstoun, William” , 1320), he died from the heat.
In the course of 1736, Miller sent Linnaeus Houstoun’s catalogue of plants, containing engravings on copperplate made by himself. See Houstonia. It contained, among other things, the engraving of Dorstenia Contragerva, which formed part of Houstoun’s contribution to vol. 37 of the Philosophical transactions. By the end of 1735, Linnaeus was still waiting for Miller’s communication, as can be deduced from Gronovius’s letter to him of 3 November 1735Letter L0055. Linnaeus needed Houstoun’s catalogue for the composition of his Genera plantarumLinnaeus, Carl Genera
plantarum eorumque characteres naturales
secundum numerum, figuram, situm &
proportionem omnium fructificationis
(Leiden 1737). Soulsby no.
which he was preparing at the time. Houstoun’s catalogue was issued by Joseph BanksBanks, Joseph (1743-1820).
British. Naturalist, president of the
Royal Society. Together with Daniel
Solander he took part in Cook’s first
voyage. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
as late as 1781 under the title Reliquiae HoustounianaeLinnaeus, Carl .
For Johann Amman’s description of the plant Bandura, see the Philosophical transactions. The scientific exploration of Kamtschatka mentioned in Gronovius’s letter is reported by Johann Amman himself in two letters addressed to Hans SloaneSloane, Hans (1660-1753).
British. Physician, naturalist and
collector. Secretary of the Royal
Society in 1693, president in 1727.
Sloane’s collections of natural history
objects were donated to the English
nation and were one of cornerstones of
the British Museum (1759). Correspondent
of Linnaeus.
. “De Kamtschatkiensi expeditione Academica relatum habeo, Do[minos] Professores Irkutskoy urbem ad Angarae fluminis ripam sitam hoc vere perventuros, postea secundo flumine Lena iter prosecuturos Iakutskoy urbem, deinde in trahis Ochotam usque, exinde per sinum Kamtschatkiensem in ipsam Kamtschatkam.” (Letter of 12 April 1735 sent from St. Petersburg; British Library, Sloane MS. 4054, f. 33a). “Kamtschatkiensem nostram quod attinet, plurimas iterum accepimus observationes in Callmaccorum confiniis juxta Irtisch fluvium factas.” (Letter of 4 September 1735 sent from St. Petersburg; ibid., f. 99a). It seems reasonable to deduce from the last letter that Amman did not take part in the expedition himself. This runs counter to Gronovius’s account. Together with the obvious misspelling of Camkatchky instead of Kamtschatka, this mistake may well indicate that the information imparted by Gronovius is second-hand. It should be noted, however, that Gronovius established contact with Amman in 1736 at the latest. In a letter of 6 September 1736, Amman informed Hans Sloane that he had received “lately from D[octo]r Gronovius at Leyden some systematical tables concerning natural History, composed by D[octo]r Linnaeus.” (British Library, Sloane MS. 4054, f. 298b).
In the printed version issued in 1735, Linnaeus invariably uses the term “Dioecia”.
In the printed version of Systema naturaeLinnaeus, Carl Systema
naturae, sive regna tria naturae
systematice proposita per classes,
ordines, genera & species

(Leiden 1735). Soulsby no. 39.
, Linnaeus preferred the ablative case in both the first and second part of the “Regnum vegetabile”.
Jussieva was removed from the Dioecia polyandria in the printed version of Systema naturaeLinnaeus, Carl Systema
naturae, sive regna tria naturae
systematice proposita per classes,
ordines, genera & species

(Leiden 1735). Soulsby no. 39.
. In Reliquiae HoustounianaeHouston, William Reliquiae
Houstounianae: seu, Plantarum in America
Meridionali a Gulielmo Houstoun [...]
collectarum icones manu propria aere
incisae; cum descriptionibus e schedis
ejusdem in bibliotheca Josephi Banks
[...] asservatis
(London 1781).
the genus Jussievia is mentioned (p. 6 and tab. 15): “Est plantae genus, flore masculino in eadem planta a feminino remoto; cujus flos masculinus A monopetalus est et infundibuliformis; femininus B vero polypetalus et rosaceus, embryone C instructus, qui deinde sit fructus D tricoccus, a Ricini fructu non distinguendus.” In his Genera plantarumLinnaeus, Carl Genera
plantarum eorumque characteres naturales
secundum numerum, figuram, situm &
proportionem omnium fructificationis
(Leiden 1737). Soulsby no.
of 1737, Linnaeus assimilates Jussievia Houst. A.A. with Jatropha; see the Monoecia Polyandria, no. 721.