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Link: • John Ellis to Carl Linnaeus, 2 June 1761 n.s.
Dated June 2. 1761. Sent from London (Great Britain) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in English.

To Charles Linnaeus

I have been favour’d with your very kind letter of the 3 of April, inclosing some seeds of the true Rhubarb from China, together with the Robinia Caragana, both which grow very well. I should be much obligd to you for a Pound of the Seed of the true Rhubarb by the first Swedish Ship, but beg that it may be of this years growth. Please to send it to the care of my friends Brander & Spalding, and I will pay them or M[iste]r Solander the charge of it.

I now send you a proof sheet of the figure of the recent Encrinus, which I told you in a former letter I receiv’d from Barbadoes. The figure which you propos’d to send me of your fossil one, I believe you forgot to inclose, for it was not in the Letter, so that I wait in hopes to see it. I am endeavouring to find out all the variety of fossils of that kind, in order to describe them, but fear I shall not be able to do it so well as I wish.

This is most certainly a testaceous animal, and in my opinion not allied to the Isis. M[iste]r Solander, who is very expert at these matters, will give you his description of it. It is very possible it adheres to Rocks in great depths of the Sea, and for ought we know, this may be but a branch or part of the Intire animal. The Branches which compose the Summit or head of this Animal are well describd in Rosinus, Pag. 84. Tab. x. f. ii. N. 1.

The animal of the Isis Hippuris, as it comes to us divested of its outward covering, must remain unknown to us till some curious person will take the trouble to examine it recent, or bring it home carefully in Spirits of Wine.

The Isis ochracea I have taken some pains to examine and describe in our Philosophical Transactions, in part 1st of Vol. 50. page 188. It appears to me to be totally different from the Hippuris.

The Isis Encrinus is not fixed to Rocks, but floats freely in the Sea. This appears from an Examination of the Base, which had the skin intire when I first rec’d it. The bony stem of this is not in the least jointed.

M[iste]r Solander has promis’d to examine all my describd Corallines over again, and also all the varieties of Algae (Fuci). We intend soon to go to the sea side for further discoveries.[a][a] : MS 1 discoveries [added above
the line
The Lapis Judaicus is certainly the spine of an Echinus. This appears plain from sundry specimens in the Publick as well as private Musaeums, where the spines and Echinus are found in the same Mass. I have never heard of any of this kind that has been found recent.

Your Letter to D[octo]r Garden shall be carefully forwarded to him.

Gouvernour Ellis of Georgia who is now here says they have a Tortoise (Testudo) in the River Savannah in Georgia without[b][b] : MS 1 <with> without a Shell, except a small one on its breast; that the feet and neck of this animal are longer than the other kinds.

I will Endeavour to get one preserv’d from thence from the present Gouvernour as M[iste]r Ellis is appointed gouvernour of Nova Scotia, one of the most Northern Colonies belonging to us.

D[octo]r Job Baster of Zurichsee in Zealand, has lately presentd a memoir to the Royal Society here, to prove that the Sertularias are partly plants and partly animals, that the outward skins or cases of the Sertularias are of a Vegetable nature, and the internal part[c][c] : MS 1 part [added above the
animal. And quotes your description of a Zoophyte to prove that he is right. I so far agree that the external part Vegetates, but, it is probable, it is after the manner of our hair or Nails, or as the horns of animals. Yet am convinc’d from experience, that it is[d][d] : MS 1 it is [added above the
of an animal nature, as much as the Shell of the Tortoise. He supposes they shoot out roots like vegetables, but I am going to the Sea side with M[iste]r Solander, to shew him, that what appears to be roots, is only the animal in its first state (like the Larvae of Insects). The young polype or Hydra drops from its vesicle or matrix, and begins immediately to extend its horns and body, and to fix its self to some fucus, shell, or Stone, by its hinder part. After it has secur’d itself there, the fore part becomes, or raises itself[e][e] : MS 1 or ... itself [added above
the line
erect, and proceeds growing on, and sending forth little heads in denticles, which are variously disposd according to the several[f][f] : MS 1 several [added above the
particular species we meet with. If you examine these Rootlike bodies, you’ll find them cylindrical and wrinkled, like the dried[g][g] : MS 1 dried [added above the
guts of animals. From one and the same small gut-like root, or first beginning of these polypes, I have seen several stems arise, but this is agreeable to the manner of the increase of the Hydra of Trembley. I hear that D[octo]r Baster is desir’d by his friend M[iste]r Philip Miller (who totally disbelieves the animal nature of Corallines or Sertulariae) to proceed in order to overturn this new Doctrine. How far he will meet with success a little time will discover. I think I have half converted my opponent, who sets out in his memoir printed in our Transactions, Vol. 50, part I. page 258, by telling the Society that ’Corallinas non magis a polypis fabrefieri, quam diversa fungorum genera ab illis fabricantur animalculis, quibus, aestivo tempore, quasi repleta inveniuntur.’

I made some Observations some time ago on the Alcyonium digitatum, & find it a middle Being between some of the Madrepora Corals, & some Sponges, coming near to the class of Sponges, which indeed for want of good opportunities have never been properly investigated.

The stupose part of this Alcyonium, divested of its Gluten and magnified, is a perfect Sponge. Nothing then appears, but this reticular part, and this is the case of Sponges, which are always found, when recent & alive, filld with this glutinous substance, the regular holes, which we observe in dry Sponges, strongly indicate their being once filld with animals, I mean those parts of the Animal which comprehends the Tentacula, Mouths,[h][h] : MS 1 Mouths [added above the
Stomach, Eggs, &c. But I shall defer this Subject till I send you drawings of my Observations, and hope to meet some Subjects at the Sea side, which may better elucidate this matter.

The Plates of the Gardenia and Halesia, which were doing for my memoir to the Royal Society, are now almost finished; it will be publishd in our Transactions next month, when I will send you the memoir and plates.

Your calling our Cicuta, Conium, together with your differing from others as to its being the Cicuta of the ancients, has exercised the pens of many of our people here, particularly D[octo]rWatson, who is of the Contrary opinion, and endeavours to support D[octo]r Storck of Vienna. For my part I cannot think that Storck’s description agrees with our Cicuta in the poisonous qualities of the roots of theirs; nor can I think that 2 or 3 degrees of Latitude can make so great difference in its venomous quality, especially as it is a native of this country and the most common weed we have. I should be glad of a letter from you on that subject to lay before our Royal Society, who greatly depend on your judgment and opinion in all Physical and Botanical affairs.

I am in fear that our tea Seeds will not grow, though we did not expect them to appear till the middle of this month. Those that were placed in our hot-house are perished, thou in the Natural ground (or open air) some Gardeners have still hopes of. If they had been taken out of the Wax at the Cape of Good Hope, and put into Earth coverd with land Moss, I should think they might have had a better chance. But I planted acorns of the common English oak, which grew after having been preserv’d in Bees wax 14 months, which shews that bees wax is the best substance to cover them with but these acorns were put into an Earthen vessel, in which the melted wax had been first pour’d, and before it was harden’d the acorns were put in; being first well dried on the floor of an Airy room for a month: whereas the Tea seeds were only coverd with half an Inch round them of wax, which might be too little. However, I am not discouragd from proceeding in such useful experiments.

I had almost forgot to mention that D[octo]r Baster says, “that all the Corallines, properly so calld, are Confervas” and says “he is inclin’d to suspect, [i][i] : MS 1 <believe> suspect from very solid reasons every species of Corallines enumerated by Linnaeus; though he has not had an opportunity of examining them all.” I shall be obligd to answer this ingenious doubting Philosopher by shewing the Royal Society, that he does not know the difference between a Conferva and a Coralline, which is a task I by no means like. At present I shall refer you to his Opuscula Subseciva, in 2 parts, which I suppose he has sent you; and am,

Dear Sir, Your much obligd
& most Obed[ien]t Servant,
John Ellis

P.S. As the Print I inclose to you has not yet appeard in publick, I must desire you would not give a design of it to your friends till ours appears. This copy which I send you is not yet finishd, but as you seem’d pressing for it, I send it to you just as it is.

The Royal Society
at Upsal
in Sweden


Not yet available


a. original holograph (LS, XVII, 106-107). [1] [2] [3]


1. A selection (1821), vol. 1, p. 142-148   p.142  p.143  p.144  p.145  p.146  p.147  p.148.


MS 1 discoveries [added above the line]
MS 1 <with> without
MS 1 part [added above the line]
MS 1 it is [added above the line]
MS 1 or ... itself [added above the line]
MS 1 several [added above the line]
MS 1 dried [added above the line]
MS 1 Mouths [added above the line]
MS 1 <believe> suspect