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Link: • Johan Gerhard König to Carl Linnaeus, 7 June 1766 n.s.
Dated 7. Junij 1766. Sent from København (Denmark) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in German.


Johan Gerhard KönigKönig, Johan Gerhard
(1728-1785). Danish. Physician, born in
Polish Livonia. Private pupil of
Linnaeus in 1757. Visited Iceland. Went
to Tranquebar in India, to Thailand and
Ceylon. He died on his way to Tibet.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
hopes that Linnaeus will permit him to write a long overdue letter, since König had learned so much from Linnaeus during his stay in Uppsala.

König has also taken the liberty of composing a package of natural objects collected during his travels in Iceland. He has left the package with Johan ZoëgaZoëga, Johan (1742-1788).
Danish. Botanist and economist.
Linnaeus’s student 1762-1764.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
and hopes that it will reach Linnaeus safely. In addition, König makes a number of brief comments on these specimens, and numbers them as a means of identification.

In botany, he thinks No. 1 is a new genus, and he has given it the name Bergeria after Johan Chilian Just von BergerBerger, Johan Chilian Just von
(1723-1791). German/Danish.
Physician-in-ordinary, Copenhagen.
, a physician who is president in the Botanical commission and a great patron of botany, although he has not published anything in this field. König hopes that his analysis will stand and that Linnaeus can accept this name. No. 2 is a grass belonging to the polygamous class. No. 5 seems to be a Swertia but lacks nectaria. Nos. 7 and 8 are gentians, and their stigmata are sessile and get broader in good weather. No. 8 is very like Gentiana aurea but has corollae with blue stripes in them. No. 9, Ranunculus Ammanni, is very common in the creeks, has rarely more than 8 anthers and not more than 30 seeds. Pedicularis flammea is very common in the arid meadows, and Veronica fruticosa in the valleys where grass grows. There are very many Saxifraga in the mountains, and it is almost impossible to see any differences between cespitosa and hypnoides, or between bulbifera and cornua. However, the least difference König has seen is that between Erigeron Alpinum and Erigeron uniflorum.

A lot of kelp grows on the beaches. A lot of molluscs live among the kelp, and the great difference between high and low tide, between four and six ells, makes it easy to investigate this area. On the other hand, bad weather often prevents investigations. König has found more than 24 species of kelp, some of which are found in William Hudson’sHudson, William (1730-1792).
British. Pharmacist at Westmoreland.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
Flora AnglicaHudson, William Flora anglica
: exhibens plantas per regnum angliae
sponte crescentes, distributas secundum
systema sexuale / cum differentiis
specierum, synonymis auctorum, nominibus
incolarum, solo locorum, tempore
florendi, officinalibus
(London, 1762).
, but some must be quite new. Some species have a very beautiful red colour, but they are poisonous. Kelps Nos. 15 and 17 are considered as good food for men and cattle, and large quantities of them are gathered for use in the winter. It is said that if a lean sheep eats this kelp for a fortnight and then is killed, it can give 12 to 14 pounds of tallow without any visible damage to the kidneys. König has seen himself how avidly horses and sheep eat this kelp on the beach. Kelp no. 16 is used when there is no other, and it is said that foxes eat this kelp in low tide when there is nothing else to eat on the beach, and it has the name “Skoddle gräs” after this. The kelp Fucus ciliatus is peculiar in that it sticks so well to where it is fastened that it breaks rather than comes loose. Fucus pinnatus has something between the bladders on the topmost branches, which König supposes has some bearing on its propagation. Kelp No. 21 is bent backwards from the root up. The whole plant is cartilaginous and red, and its smallest branches are full of small bladders. Kelp No. 22, Fucus plumosus, has its fructification between the leaves in the form of a small bladder on a stem. From this, small bodies are released and stick on stones in the bottom of the water to form new plants. These bladders appear in July and August. The Icelanders call this kelp “Anim es Söl”, and they think that if you eat it, you will lose your memory completely. They have examples of this. Kelp No. 23 has larger fructification bladders which are broken loose when ripe, and you find them often in the winter. This kelp is considered to be very poisonous. König had been told that every year sheep die after having eaten it. König had not been able to investigate this himself. In the spring, 8 sheep belonging to Biorne PoulsenPoulsen, Biorne . had died, and as König had been nearby, he had gone to Poulsen and asked him, but Poulsen knew even less than König. The sheep had not been ill more than half a day, and some died even quicker. Nevertheless, the meat is eaten by the Icelanders. If the kelp is dried in a closed room, you feel a sweet smell, and if you stay longer, you get a headache and vertigo, which König has felt himself. The beach looks very beautiful with this red kelp, and it is called “Oaite Söl”. No. 26, Fucus conferv., is also considered poisonous. This kelp decomposes slowest of all. It is brown when it grows, and when it is thrown up on the beach, it is first black, then purple, red, transparent red and lastly white, so that you can dye it with any colour you will. König has dyed it yellow, green, blue and red. You can extract dyes from all cartilaginous kelps by a treatment with spiritus vini, so that they become white, and then you can dye them as you want. Such specimens of beautifully dyed kelp are shown in a noble museum in Copenhagen, just like a rare natural specimen from France. Kelp No. 29 often has a stem 3 ells long, due to the fact that it grows in deep water. Specimens growing in more shallow water have shorter stems or none at all. Horses eat this kelp during winter if there is nothing else, but horses never eat Fucus sacharinus. Kelp No. 30 has a short stem and grows deepest in the sea of all kelps. The twigs in the side of the stem, before the leaf begins, get rather broad, so you cannot consider them to be the fructification of this species. These twigs are easily broken off, and the Icelanders eat them. They call them “Mariu kiärna”.

Tremella, no. 36, is leather-like. Its colour is like that of kelp, with a yellow brim, darker nearer the centre and in the end quite brown. It rots slowly in the sea, as you can see from the old plants lying under the newest ones coming up.

König had studied especially the plants of the sea, polyps and molluscs during the winter he was in Iceland. He had often been in mortal danger during this work. One winter was not enough to learn about the reproduction of the Corallinae. They begin as a red crust on rocks, and from this, simple apices grow which may form branches. They grow very slowly, but it seems that after some years, cilia seemed to appear from a pore in the end of a branch. König could not observe these more closely, for his microscope was not good enough, so he does not know if they could move or not.

No. 42 is a Sertularia that König had observed at low tide where it lived in the bottom of the sea. It had been impossible to take it from there, and König had noticed that these organisms die very soon when they have been separated from their root. They must be considered as annual.

No. 43, Hydra triticea, known from Fauna Svecica, 2nd editionLinnaeus, Carl Fauna Svecica
sistens animalia Sveciae regni:
quadrupedia, aves, amphibia, pisces,
insecta, vermes, distributa per classes
& ordines, genera & species. Cum
differentiis specierum, synonymis
autorum, nominibus incolarum, locis
habitationum, descriptionibus
insectorum, 2nd edition
1761). Soulsby no. 1153.
and from John EllisEllis, John (1711-1776).
British. Merchant and naturalist, expert
on zoophytes. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, is very common in Iceland in the stony beaches. It must come from a kind of conchilia and be a container used in its fructification. König thinks it is from a kind of Murex or Buccinus. In spring, the outer skin is thin and transparent and contains some fluid. During summer, they get thicker, and the fluid inside is more like water. The cups that are damaged by force produce some red dust on the ground, and nothing more comes from them. In late autumn, you find small conchilia inside the cups with undamaged skin. König has looked with his microscope at such a cup but not found any opening, so he supposes that they have grown inside. Later in winter, the shells get harder and bigger so that they break the cup. König has some more to tell about these cups, but the letter would be too long. König had discovered something similar in another species, when he had seen Buccini undati lay Vesicaria marina in the Spring. In April and May, you can see these animals ten or twenty together, some even separate, and busy laying these vesicaria on stones or among kelp. The snail is quite extended on the place where the bladder shall be laid, and directly after, it leaves or falls from the place. König had seen specimens which were about to lay this, and they had an opening where the bladder would come out. König sends Linnaeus a specimen of this as No. 44, where the bladder has not quite come out but is found on the side of the stone. König had kept the stone in sea-water for a fortnight afterwards and tried to observe it longer together with the Buccinus. When the bladder is newly laid, its shell is soft and it is filled with a clear liquid with a few yellow grains in it. If it is dried, it is destroyed. If it is still in water, the shell gets stronger. König had made these observations in mornings at clear weather. As to the bladders, König had noticed several variations, and he suspects that several snails lay such bladders. König has also in March and April seen some Turbines littorei, which have laid similar objects on stones. As he has not returned to that place, he does not know what happened later.

Specimen no. 48 is regarded as a Lerusa by Stroem [Hans StrömStröm, Hans (1726-1797).
Norwegian. Clergyman. Professor of
theology. Naturalist and zoologist.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
], and they are often found in the gills of fishes. No. 49 is a Phalangium according to Ström, and it moves extremely slowly, lives under stones, penetrates the shells of mussels and sucks them out. No. 50 is similar to the last mentioned. Ström has a drawing of it, and it may be a variety. It lives from molluscs. At the end of its feet, it has white claws, but the rest of it is red. No. 53 is several small shells and among them one small green mussel that König has not wanted to separate from the others since it is so small and delicate.

The Myae are also some kind of molluscs which they resemble, presented by Ulisse AldrovandiAldrovandi, Ulisse (1522-1605).
Italian. Naturalist and ornithologist,
physician and professor at Bologna.
as Mentula. His drawings are not very clear, but you can recognize the animal if you have seen it in real life before, and König has had some very good specimens of this depicted in Iceland. It always sticks to another object, is round and has a shell around it and two proboscides at the end, one with a large opening without teeth. The intestine starts directly there. The animal takes in water and lets it out again, so König has concluded that it lives from small animals found in the water. These peculiarities of the Mentula are found also in the Myae except for the fact that it has two such openings. The Icelanders call them “Mege”, and Mya arenaria becomes “Sandmege”. Some of them are red, and they are called “Roedur Mege” or “Roedur-Höpfde”.

König could tell much more about the Icelandic birds, molluscs and other species, but space does not permit. If Linnaeus requests something more about this, König will be ready to meet his demands. König has not quite recovered from a recent pneumonia but sends Linnaeus his profound regards.

[König’s list of the plants is found on fols:141-142, with annotations by Linnaeus].


a. original holograph (LS, VIII, 133-136, 141-142, 143). [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]