-Search for letters
-Search in texts






Link: • John Ellis to Carl Linnaeus, 31 May 1757 n.s.
Dated May 31. 1757. Sent from London (Great Britain) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in English.


I rec’d your agreeable letter, for which I am much oblig’d to you. I thank you for adopting the Halesia among your Genera. You desire my advice in the affair of the Butneria and Beureria. What you say is very true, call it which you will, you will certainly give offence to one or another. M[iste]r Miller has called it[a][a] : MS 1 it [added above the
the Basteria. But if you’ll please to follow my advice, I would call it Gardenia from our worthy friend D[octo]r Alexander Garden of S[outh] Carolina, who will take it as a compliment from you, and may be a most useful correspondent to you, in sending you many new undescribd plants. I shall write to him by the Pacquet next week and let him know what you desire. He sent me this year great varieties of Plants, but they have been all taken by the French, but Mons[ieu]r Du Hamel has promisd for the future to return M[iste]r Collinson & me whatever are taken.

I shall forward you by the first opportunity D[octo]r Russels Book, and M[iste]r Edwards has promisd me some of his plates for you that are not yet publishd.

I long to see your method properly establishd amongst us, those people that us’d to laugh at is as chimerical, are glad to change their old names to your better chosen ones. I am sorry you chang’d the Name Meadia of Catesby, it gave great offence to the lovers of Botany, particularly as you changd it to an obsolete one. I wish you would alter it.

As I am well acquainted with the Gentlemen, that have the care of our British Musaeum, I hope to persuade them to follow your method in the total disposition of it; then one may easily find, what they want; but while different methods are followed, nothing but confusion must arise. I wait with impatience to see the collection of Fucus’s there. I have a tolerable good one of all the English & Irish ones, which as I have examined most of them microscopically, I have observd many things curious in them. I find the Confervas have blossoms & seeds. I have the drawing of two curious ones, that Ehret drew for me, while we were on the sea coast. I find we are the least knowing in submarine Botany. I find they are as Ignorant, as we are, in Holland; for Doctor Job Baster of Zealand has very lately presented a paper to our Royal Society, endeavouring to prove, that corallines are vegetables; and in order to illustrate it, has given us drawings accurately painted, which demonstrate his subjects to be fucus’s and conferva’s, instead of Corallines, His paper is pointed at my book, but I believe my answer will convince him[b][b] : MS 1 him [added above the
of the necessity of making himself master of that kind of Botany, before he presents his other memoirs, which he has promisd the Society. He describes a good many sea Insects, which he found among the corallines, and several luminous insects, which he caught by filtrating the luminous sea water through spongy paper.

M[iste]r Brander, a Merchant here, and my intimate friend, has promisd to forward you what I intend, as he has already some things from M[iste]r Miller.

I took a great deal of trouble last summer in collecting and carefully examining all the Crataegus, Sorbus & Mespilus, found in our Gardens which are numerous indeed. I think the Sorbus sativa, from its five seeds and coriaceous loculaments, to come near the Pyrus, besides the shape of the Fruit. We have a new curious american wild apple, different from the Pyrus foliis serrato-angulosis. This has folia lanceolata serrato- angulosa, and keeps its leaves on all the Winter. It is as yet rare here. We have some young plants of the Halesia coming up from seed, the seed has been a whole year in the Ground. It must bear our climate well[c][c] : MS 1 well [added above the
, as the winters are often sharp in the N[orth] West parts of S[outh] Carolina from whence it comes; it will be a valuable acquisition to Gentlemen who delight in curious hardy flowering shrubs, which is the fashion here at present. The red flowering Robinia is the ornament of our Gardens, it blossoms when it is not a foot high, and thrives luxuriantly when inarchd on the white blossomd Robinia.

I shall be extremely glad to do you any services here. I speak with sincerity, and beg you’d be so free as to command

To You most obedi[ent] humble Serv[an]t,
John Ellis.

London May 31. 1757.

To Sir Charles Linnaeus
at Upsala
in Sweden


John EllisEllis, John (1711-1776).
British. Merchant and naturalist, expert
on zoophytes. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
thanks Linnaeus for a letter in which he has promised to adopt Halesia among his genera. Linnaeus had asked Ellis’s advice regarding a plant called Butneria and Beureria. Philip MillerMiller, Philip (1691-1771).
British. Gardener of the Chelsea Physic
Garden. Corresponded with many
botanists. His rich herbarium was sold
to Joseph Banks. Correspondent of
, however, has called the plant Basteria. Ellis in his turn suggests Gardenia in honour of Alexander GardenGarden, Alexander (1730-1791).
British/American. Doctor of medicine,
South Carolina. Correspondent of
of South Carolina. Garden will take it as a compliment. Garden may be a most useful correspondent to Linnaeus in sending many new undescribed plants. That year Garden had sent lots of plants but they were all taken by the French. Du Hamel [Henri-Louis Duhamel Du MonceauDuhamel Du Monceau, Henri-Louis
(1700-1782). French. Wrote on botany
and agronomy. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
] has promised for the future to return to Peter CollinsonCollinson, Peter (1694-1768).
British. Merchant and amateur naturalist
in London, corresponded with many
scientists. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
and Ellis whatever has been taken.

Ellis will send Alexander Russel’sRussell, Alexander
(c.1715-1768). British. Physician and
naturalist. In 1740 he went to Aleppo in
Syria as physician to the English
factory. Famous for his The Natural
History of Aleppo
(1756; 2nd ed.
1794). After his return to England and
Scotland he worked as a physician.
Half-brother of Patrick Russell.
book The natural history of AleppoRussel, Alexander The natural
history of Aleppo: and parts adjacent.
Containing a description of the city,
and the principal natural productions in
its neighbourhood; together with an
account of the climate, inhabitants, and
(London, 1756).
and some unpublished plates that George EdwardsEdwards, George (1693-1773).
British. Ornithologist and artist.
Visited the Netherlands, France and
Scandinavia. Best known for his
History of birds (1747-1751).
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
has promised Linnaeus [Ellis refers to Edwards’s fortcoming Gleanings of natural historyEdwards, George Gleanings of
natural history, exhibiting figures of
quadrupeds, birds, insects, plants
3 vol. ( London, 1758-1764).

Ellis longs to see Linnaeus’s method properly established among the English. Those who used to laugh at it as chimerical are glad to change their old names to Linnaeus’s better chosen ones. But Ellis is sorry that Linnaeus changed Mark Catesby’sCatesby, Mark (1682-1749).
British. Naturalist and artist. Best
known for his illustrated work The
Natural history of Carolina, Florida and
the Bahama islands
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
Meadia. This has offended the lovers of botany, since the name was changed to an obsolete one. Being well acquainted with the gentlemen of the British museum Ellis hopes to be able to persuade them to follow Linnaeus’s method. While different methods are followed, nothing but confusion arise. Ellis waits impatiently to see the collection of the Fuci. Ellis has two curious specimens of Conferva which Ehret has drawn. Ellis complains about the ignorance in submarine botany. They are as ignorant in Holland as in England. Job BasterBaster, Job (1711-1775).
Dutch. Naturalist, doctor of medicine,
Leiden. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
of Zealand has recently presented a paper to the Royal SocietyRoyal Society, London,
British. The Royal Society was founded
in Oxford in 1645 and sanctioned as a
royal society in 1662.
and stated that corallines are vegetables. However, his drawings demonstrate that the subjects are Fuci and Confervae instead of corallines. Baster describes many sea insects found among the corallines.

Ellis’s friend, a merchant by the name of Gustaf BranderBrander, Gustaf (1720-1787).
Swedish. Merchant in London. Partner of
Abraham Spalding in the firm Spalding
& Brander. Curator of the British
Museum. Friend of John Ellis.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, has promised to forward things to Linnaeus. Brander already has some things from Miller.

Ellis discusses Crataegus, Sorbus and Mespilus. He believes Sorbus sativa to come close to Pyrus. There is a curious new American wild apple different from Pyrus foliis serrato-angulosis. There are young plants of Halesia coming up from seeds. Robinia is the ornament of the English gardens.


a. original holograph (LS, XVII, 90-91). [1] [2] [3]


1. A selection (1821), vol. 1, p. 85-88   p.85  p.86  p.87  p.88.


MS 1 it [added above the line]
MS 1 him [added above the line]
MS 1 well [added above the line]