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Link: linnaeus.c18.net/Letter/L0276 • Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch to Carl Linnaeus, 21 March 1739 n.s.
Dated XXI Die Martii MDCCXXXIX. Sent from Trebnitz (Germany) to (). Written in Latin.

Viro
Praenobilissimo, Amplissimo, Experientissimo,
Doctissimo Carissimoque,
Philosopho Et Botanico Belgico,[1]
De
Rei Herbariae Studio
Optime Merito,
Carolo Linnaeo,
Med[icinae] Doct[ori] Et Ac[ademiae] Nat[urae]
Cur[iosorum] Imp[erialis] Soc[io],
Salutem et Officia
Johannes Gottlieb Gleditsch Lips[iensis]
Art[ium] Mag[ister] et Med[icinae] Cand[idatus].

Minime mirum Tibi videri debet adventus hujus epistolae, quae gaudium, Vir Clarissime, e doctissimis Tuis scriptis perceptum ingenua candidaque sinceritate exponit. Duplici de causa mihi ipsi suboritur gratulandi necessitas, siquidem et mea musa non parum emolumenti ex illis collegit, sed et rarior tartiorque[a][a] : MS1 [read] tardiorque ex aliis regionibus librorum est accessus. Non dicam potissimum in causa esse libellionum barbariem vel ignorantiam, [sed][b][b] : MS1 [manuscript damaged] ut ingenue fatear, maximam culpam in eruditorum nonnullorum neglectum transferendam arbitror. Fatum certe non satis deplorandum plures eorum in Germania ita obnubilavit, ut botanica sua eruditione non parum superbiant et egregie de se sentiant, quamvis de cetero vera hujus scientiae principia minus curent et praeter nominum centuria una alterave plantarum, quae pharmacorum praeparationi inserviunt, exiguo satis doctrinae pondere polleant. Paucissimi rem herbariam debito nexu capiunt ejusque suavitatem degustant. Hin[c] in illam abeunt sententiam, ut credant illam minus scientifice tractandam esse nec philosophicam esse scientiam nec nobilem ac necessariam nec adeo difficilem, ut non absque graviori industria sub vespertino otio ceu vigiliis addisci possit ac debeat, unde in academiis plerumque subjecta, viliori mercede conducta, botanices professoris munus suscipiunt, hortos Tuliparum et Hyacinthorum copia adaugent, paucissimas plantas barbara voce et ad notissimam illam methodum, cujus ratio sufficiens in A.B.C. deprehenditur, tyronibus confuse satis exponunt et, quod turpe dictu, nonnumquam[c][c] : MS1 <nonumquam> nonnumquam ne herbulam quidem cognoscunt.

Quidam ex popularibus botanicis mu[l]ta de exoticis speciosioribus magno pretio comparatis garriunt et indigenas curiosi[ssi]mas, quae proxime nascuntur, plantas, Filices, Algas, Fungos et Muscos tanquam abjecta naturae recrementa pedibus conculcant fastuque absurdo fugiunt, rejiciunt ac desuadent, excursiones illosque, qui diligentiorem plantis navant operam, alto supercilio spernunt, magnamque cum illis simultatem habent. Solennis non longe abhinc talis mos Lipsiae et in viciniis erat. Miratus autem sum saepenumero botanicos, qui maxima in celebritate versantur, talis furfuris homines in scriptis suis laudibus extulisse et nomina eorum novis plantarum generibus praefixisse, ut inter reliquos tanquam primae magnitudinis stellae orbi eruditorum splendorem accendere multo majorem debeant. Hoc, si nec veritati nec aequitati contradicit, credulum me reddit et clare demonstrat omnes absque meritis auctoritate conspicuos factos et ad tantum celebritatis pondus perventos eo magis laude et inde monstrabili gloria dignos judicandos esse, quominus ipsi causas suae dignitatis comprehendere possunt. Cognoscere ex praecedentibus haud gravatim poteris, Vir Celeberrime, unde difficultas transitus librorum ad nos, qui res continent profundiores, ortum ducat. Duorum annorum elapso spatio Opera Tua scite eleganterque conscripta accepi Naturae Systemate[2] et Botanica Critica[3] exceptis, quae omnia mihi ex asse fecerunt satis et in specie dubia mea circa nectarium prorsus removerunt et libertatem mihi exoptatissimam botanices a mole praejudiciorum jam dudum praeconceptam exposuerunt. Fundamenta Tua Botanica,[4] opusculum mole parvum, sed industriae et eruditionis Linnaeanae insigne est testimonium, quo uti hactenus potuisse vehementer mihi gratulor. Tibi grates decentissimas ago et animi Tui cum mea sententia harmonia est egregia circa botanices principia a priori demonstranda, qua propter sincera mente testor me Tibi Tuaeque industriae multum debere. Obitum doleo MicheliiMicheli, Pietro Antonio
(1679-1737). Italian. Botanist, curator
of the botanical garden of Florence.
Before Linnaeus the leading authority on
cryptogames.
oculatissimi, cujus responsum anno praeterlapso 1738 de ratione Filices examinandi avide expectavi, sed praeter spem Viro orbatus sum, cujus praestantiam in Algarum et Fungorum ordinibus compertum satis habeo.[5] Experientiae enim ejus vestigiis insistens per tres annos omnia, ut praescripta ac relata leguntur in operibus, reperi et experimenta aliquoties a me reiterata me ita firmarunt, ut illum ex toto sectari non dubitem. Ante breve tempus plura de laudatissimo Tuo rei herbariae studio cum singulari voluptate cognovi ex amico haud ita pridem e Belgia reduce. Et quotiescunque specialior haec relatio memoriae recurrit toties certe in[d][d] : MS1 in [added twice] votis habeo dulcissimo Tuo ubique frui posse consortio. Sed cum haud circumstantiae concedant, perjucunda Tui grataque recordatio mente defixa persistet et calcar adjicere poterit meae musae, ut haud interrupta serie id efficiat, quod Tibi potissimum placere et mihi ipsi prodesse queat. Ne vero brevissima botanici mei studii desit notiuncula Tua pace, Vir Clarissime, paucula adjiciam. A puero igitur, ut ita dicam, singulari historiae naturalis et vegetabilium in specie amore captus sum et quamvis in tenera aetate nec facultas nec addiscendi capacitas adesset, tamen summa proclivitas me ita commovit, ut, si literarum angustia concederet, plura ex coecis meis conaminibus enarrare possem. Ad altiora studia tamen deductus optimam et fautricem occasionem invitis parentibus, agnatis, praeceptoribus ac fautoribus nactus sum potiora rei herbariae incrementa capiendi, rem non habens cum iniquis Lipsiensium censoribus, qui pro temporum more medicinae cultoribus turpitudini ducebant herbas cognoscere et illarum gratia in sylvis aut palustribus versare seu, ut veritatem dicam, nitidos calceos, vestes vel capillamenta, adipe rosato et farinaceo pulvere dextre praeparata, tam frivole corrumpere aut perturbare. Sed neglectis hisce vituperatoribus rem herbariam curiosius inquisivi et, ut eandem profundius cognoscere possem, cunctis, quae prostant, clarorum virorum methodis ad certum tempus usus sum et ab una ad alteram transitum feci. His probe pensitatis certior factus sum de principiis illarum solide docteque excogitatis et insimul defectibus, qui posteriores tyronibus sat graves causantur molestias, quoniam genuino ac certo generis charactere destituuntur, licet laude sua clarissimi illarum inventores privandi minime sint. Omnibus praejudiciis deinceps remotis intellexi botanicam a medicina ob finem separatissimam esse et p[lantarum][e][e] : MS1 [manuscript damaged] constituere partem. Hinc botanicum esse philosophum, hinc sentiendi libertate gaudere, hinc vegetabilia accuratissime examinare et conceptus veros ac distinctos de omnibus ac singulis sibi formare debere, ideo nunquam terminos vagos agnoscere et nullius auctoritate[f][f] : MS1 [added above the line] sine sufficienti ratione pugnare posse. Suppositis hisce principiis singulas plantarum species quoad omnes et minimas partes perlustravi et in portatili libello descripsi, ex qua descriptione singuli generis characteres colligere et species absque difficultatibus ad genus suum majori certitudine revocare potui. Desiderium itaque alia, quibus nostra Flora carebat, videndi genera per undecim annos ad varia itinera me impulit. Postea enim quam agrum Lipsiensem perquisiveram tribus vicibus Misniae metalligerum tractum ejusque planitiem ad Albim, Muldam Salamque permigravi. In Bohemiae tractu montoso confiniis Pragensibus nec non circa Halam Saxonum, Jenam, Querfurthum et reliquis Thuringiae locis ad Hercyniae[6] oras excurrentibus elegantissimas non solum collegi Alpinas plantas, sed et lapidum figuratorum, fossilium ac minerarum insignem copiam deportavi. Posterioribus vero annis singulari Mecaenatis favore per Marchiam herbas quaesivi. Circa Berolinum ad fluvios Spree, Havellam, Viadrum[7] et in Cassubia[8] et Pommerania plures minus obvias plantulas offendi. Initio equidem numerum plantarum haud exiguum Lipsiam transmisi in hortum Academicum et Bosianum,[9] sed me absente, communi ferme Germaniae fato, ignorantiam, negligentiam et malitiam puta Hortulanorum, potior illarum pars aut periit aut vilissimo nectarei spirituosi haustus pretio ad vulgum pervenit. Cum vero Berolini anatomiae et chirurgiae causa essem, optatissima mihi contigit felicitas, ut Maxime Reverendus, Illustris ac Generosus D[omi]n[us] de ZietenZieten, Hans Joachim von
(1699-1786). German. Captain in the
cavalry at the Prussian army, later
general. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, St. Johannis Ordinis Eques, horti sui amplissimi praefectum me[g][g] : MS1 [added above the line] constitueret et omnia arbitrio meo subjiceret.[10] Hortus iste nec simulacris aeneis nec marmoreis artificiose confectis nec machinosis fonticulis abundat, sed quae pertinent ad rem herbariam, conspicua satis plantarum farago, partim proprio studio et sumptibus partim amicorum benevolentia accersitis illum adornant, quas omnes propria manu colit ab Alsine ad Musam usque possessor jam nominatus. Maecenas meus, vir plantarum cultor peritissimus et naturalium reliquorum corporum aestimator insignis, ansam mihi praebet largissimam botanicum studium ulterius exercendi et plura itinera herbarum causa mecum suscipit, ut, si quaedam supersit species, qua hortus adhuc careat, eam ipse colligat ac domum reportet. Hic favorem Tuum et commercium, Vir Clarissime, valdopere sibi exoptat ut et curiosissimi Tui CliffortiiClifford, George (1685-1760).
Dutch. Banker and merchant in Amsterdam,
Linnaeus’s benefactor. Owner of
Hartecamp and its botanical garden
outside Haarlem. Correspondent of
Linnaeus.
benevolentiam, quem in finem etiam plantarum Septentrionalium et omnium numerum candide offert, quamvis instructissimum Vestrum hortum probe calleat. Desidera proinde et significa literis, quae adhuc desunt. Has vel e floristis nostrarum regionum mecum communica. In his itaque aliisque officia Tibi commendo mea, multamque inserviendi occasionem cupio. Sanitas cum summa animi tranquillitate conjuncta Te Tuumque optimum totum Cliffortium ab omni adverso ad seros servet annos, ut favore Tuo diutius frui et doctissima eruditionis ac solertiae testimonia plura, quae sub manibus Tibi forte versantur, expectare possim. Leve tandem meum scripturae genus aequi bonique consulas et Tui aeque ac Cliffortii recordationem omni tempore jucundissimam fore mihi verisque botanices cultoribus firmiter persuasus sis, velim.

Dabam Trebnizii XXI Die Martii MDCCXXXIX e museo.[11]

P.S. Epicrisin Siegesbeckianam[12] in scripta Tua Te legisse autumno, quam sub praeteriti anni finem accepi et vigesies perlustravi. Expeto a Te omnibus modis, ut argumenta ejus, quae respectu Systematis Tui et Fundamentorum Botanicorum nullius sunt ponderis ideoque a tyronibus potius quam ab ipso magistro revellenda, nunquam responsione digna judices. Tua vero pace, Vir Clarissime, paucula, quae jam concepi, publice sub epistolii forma ad amicum et fautorem meum BreyniumBreyne, Johann Philip
(1680-1764). German/Polish. Zoologist
and physician in Danzig. Son of Jacob
Breyne. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
dabo, et rem, uti inveniam, judicabo.[13]

Vir Clarissime,
Quoniam Cupido novas videndi plantas me insigniter fervet et excruciat, iudicium Tuum et consilium avide expecto, quod in omnibus ac singulis sequar.

Iam per undecim annos studium botanicum colui, et, cum non coeca aut superflua mea conamina esse debeant, occasionem aliquando saepius multumque speravi principia hujus scientiae novis plantarum generibus et speciebus sub peregrino climate consecrandi.

Animum igitur transmarinum in Georgiam suscipere iter et vel ad urbem Savanas[14] vel vicum Eben-Ezer, ubi emigrantium Salisburgentium turba habitare cepit, plantas e viciniis conferre, inquirere, colere et Europam transmittere induxi.

Anno 1735 parensGleditsch, Johann Caspar
(?-1747). German. Musician in Leipzig,
father of Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch.
adhuc vivens me omni vi ab instituto retinuit. Post cujus obitum in arbitrio situm est Americam proficisci aut in Germania remanere. Et haec vera fuit causa, cur praeterito 1738 iter in Berbicen[15] non feci, licet Gener[osus] Bar[o] Ginkel van RheedeRheede, Ginkel van (?-?). ?. omnem operam adhibuerit.

Societatem Regiam Londinensem sumptibus suis ad diversas Americae partes botanicos ablegasse notissimum est. Haec si et nos stipendio quodam per 3, 4 aut 6 annos dignos reddere vellet, insigni laetitia ac industria rei herbariae labores susciperemus.

Quando autem haec profectibus nostris contenta nos eligeret, trium quatuorve mensium spatio prius opusculum botanicum perficere, indigenarum semine[h][h] : MS1 [added in the margin] plantarum numerum pro experimentis colligere et Anglicanam linguam exercere constituimus, quam iter susciperemus.

Si praeterlabentibus stipendii annis caeli temperies consueta corpori non exitialis deprehenditur, perpetuum domicilium nobis parabimus ibidem.

In loco apto ad negotium botanicum hortum plantare botanicum et pharmaceuticum princeps erit, quod volumus accedente mediocri botanica bibliotheca, herbario vivo et seminario.

Per totam Americam negotium literarium, quando circum[stantiae][i][i] : MS1 [manuscript damaged] patiantur, instituendum curabimus.

Labores praecipui erunt plantarum character, facultates, applicat[io][j][j] : MS1 [manuscript damaged] earum ad corpora morbosa, horticultura et commercium cum aliis eruditis. Ast neminem profecto in Anglia habeo, cujus favore mea officia ac intentio Societati Regiae proposita spem mihi de secundo rei eventu facere posset.

Expeto igitur iterum iterumque, ut nostro forsan non inconcinno instituto consiliis adesse velis.

upSUMMARY

Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch praises Linnaeus’s learned works. He complains greatly about the poor state of natural history in Germany. Those who teach botany are poorly paid, since the subject is not recognised as a scientific one.

Some of the German botanists quarrel about the more conspicuous exotic plants and out of absurd pride despise the indigenous plants, ferns, Algae, Fungi and mosses, which they consider nature’s waste products; they reject excursions. Gleditsch is surprised that botanists extol such people in their works and name new genera after them, ranking them as stars of the first magnitude in the heavens of the learned. Clearly they have no just claim to fame.

During the past two years Gleditsch has received Linnaeus’s works except Systema naturae and Critica botanica. Linnaeus’s Fundamenta botanica is a work of great learning. Gleditsch mourns the death of Pietro Antonio Micheli and praises his works on Algae and Fungi.

Gleditsch was fascinated by natural history from early childhood. As a young man he dedicated himself to this science against the will of his parents and relatives.

In Leipzig it was commonly held that those who studied medicine should not learn about herbs, look for plants in woods and swampy places and thereby destroy their polished shoes, clothes and powdered hair. But Gleditsch neglected them and devoted himself to natural history studying all methods available and learning their principles and also their defects, which confuse the disciples, because there is no clear definition of the genus. He learnt that botany was separate from medicine by its aim and that botany rests soley in plants. Hence the botanist is a philosopher. He can examine plants and it is his task to create distinct concepts. He should neither accept vague terms nor contend anyone’s authority without sufficient reason. Gleditsch meticulously examined species in situ, recording everything in a field journal. He could then collect characters of the single genus and subordinate the species.

He has spent eleven years travelling around to investigate neglected genera in the flora of Leipzig, Meissen, Elbe, Mulda, Sala, Prague, Halle, Jena, Querfurt, etc. He collected Alpine plants, stones, fossils and minerals. He forwarded a lot of plants both to the Academic Garden of Leipzig and to that of Caspar Bose. But due to the incompetence of the gardeners most of them perished.

In Berlin Hans Joachim von Zieten made him the curator of his garden under quite favourable circumstances. Zieten looks forward to a botanical interchange with Linnaeus and George Clifford.

P.S.
Johann Georg Siegesbeck’s Epicrisis is without value and not worthy of attention. However, with Linnaeus’s permission Gleditsch will write an answer in the form of a public letter to his friend, Johann Philip Breyne.

Gleditsch longs to see new plants. He plans a journey to Georgia and to either the city of Savanah or the village of Eben-Ezer, where emigrants from Salisbury have settled, in order to examine and collect plants to send on to Europe.

In 1735 Gleditsch’s father was against his plan. Now that he is dead Gleditsch feels free either go to America or remain in Germany. His father was also the reason why he did not go to Berbice in 1738, though Ginkel van Rheede offered his help.

The Royal Society of London has sent botanists to America. Gleditsch hopes for a scholarship. If the climate is good in America, he will stay on and found a botanical garden and a pharmaceutical garden. He will also stimulate literary activities in the whole of America. His main labours will focus on the characters and properties of the plants, and their medicinal applications, as well as horticulture and corresponding with other learned individuals.

Gleditsch needs a contact in England, who can speak for him at the Royal Society of London.

upMANUSCRIPTS

a. original holograph (LS, IV, 499-501). [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

upTEXTUAL NOTES

a.
MS1 [read] tardiorque
b.
MS1 [manuscript damaged]
c.
MS1 <nonumquam> nonnumquam
d.
MS1 in [added twice]
e.
MS1 [manuscript damaged]
f.
MS1 [added above the line]
g.
MS1 [added above the line]
h.
MS1 [added in the margin]
i.
MS1 [manuscript damaged]
j.
MS1 [manuscript damaged]

upEXPLANATORY NOTES

0.
Johann Gottlieb GleditschGleditsch, Johann Gottlieb
(1714-1786). German. Botanist and
sylviculturist in Berlin, disciple of
Anton Wilhelm Platz and Johann Ernst
Hebenstreit, supervisor of Caspar Bose’s
garden 1731-1735, professor at the
Collegium Medico-Chirurgicum in 1746.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
was the most famous German taxonomist of the Linnean epoch. He studied medicine and natural sciences at Leipzig and after practising medicine in Frankfurt a. d. Oder he was appointed director of the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin and lecturer at the medical school. Gleditsch’s letters give an interesting glimpse into the practical activities of the scholars.
1.
Linnaeus stayed in Holland in 1735-1738.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Pietro Antonio Micheli (d. 1737) was the director of the Botanical Garden of Florence and a leading authority on cryptogames.
6.
Hercynia (sc. silva) had since ancient times denoted the wooded mountain-system of Middle Germany, or portions thereof.
7.
I.e., the Rivers Havel, Oder and Spree.
8.
Cassuben, Farther Pomerania.
9.
In 1731-1735 Gleditsch was the director of Caspar Bose’sBose, Caspar (1686-1733).
German. Professor of botany at Leipzig.
Botanical Garden in Leipzig.
Trebnitz, Prussian Silesia.
Savanah, Georgia.
Berbice is a river and county in Guyana.