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Link: • John Mitchell to Carl Linnaeus, 6 November 1747 n.s.
Dated 26. octobr. 1747.. Sent from London (Great Britain) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in Latin.


John MitchellMitchell, John (1711-1768).
British/American. Physician and
botanist. Born in Virginia. After
studies in medicine at the University of
Edinburgh he returned to Virginia as a
physician, but left America for London
in 1746. Famous for his map of eastern
North-America, known as the Mitchell
Map, first published in 1755.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, thanks Linnaeus for his letter of August 23, which he has just received [this letter has not come down to us]. He feels forced to write an answer immediately, even before reading it carefully, since Peter CollinsonCollinson, Peter (1694-1768).
British. Merchant and amateur naturalist
in London, corresponded with many
scientists. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
is in a hurry to use an opportunity to send an answer and wants to have Mitchell’s letter with his own. Mitchell does not want to miss this occasion to show Linnaeus how much he appreciates Linnaeus and his letters.

Mitchell does not have any answers to Linnaeus’s questions about Johann Jacob DilleniusDillenius, Johann Jacob
(1684-1747). German/British. Studied at
Giessen. Sherardian professor of botany
at Oxford. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, but he will find out and report. Neither Dillenius’s successor [Humphrey SipthorpSibthorp, Humphrey (1713-1797).
British. Succeeded Johann Jacob
Dillenius as Sherardian professor of
botany at Oxford. Father of John
Sibthorp. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
] nor anyone else that Mitchell has met knows the status of “Pinax Sherardi” [Mitchell refers to Dillenius’s work with publishing a continuation of Caspar Bauhin’sBauhin, Caspar (1560-1624).
Swiss. Botanist and physician, Basle.
Bauhin’s Prodromus and Pinax
theatri botanici
(1620, 1623, 1671)
were important works in the field of
botanical nomenclature.
, Pinax theatri botaniciBauhin, Caspar Pinax theatri
botanici sive index in Theophrasti
Dioscoridis, Plinii et botanicorum qui a
seculo scripserunt opera plantarum
circiter sex milium ab ipsis exhibitarum
nomina cum earundem synonymiis &
differentiis methodice secundum genera
& species proponens
(1623) 2 ed.
(Basle 1671).
, the enlarged edition of Pinax theatri botaniciBauhin, Caspar Pinax theatri
botanici Caspari Bauhini [...] sive
index in Theophrasti, Dioscoridis,
Plinii et botanicorum qui a seculo
scripserunt opera; plantarum circiter
sex millium ab ipsis exhibitarum nomina
cum earundem synonymiis &
differentiis methodice secundum earum
& genera & species proponens.
Opus XL annorum hactenus non editum
summopere expetitum & ad auctores
intelligendos plurimum faciens

(Basle 1623).
, which he never finished]. Mitchell had learned so much from Oxford, not without a great deal of work, and Dillenius’s successor is unknown to Mitchell, although he has many of Mitchell’s plants.

The bear with the long tail that Linnaeus asks about is well known to Mitchell. It is common in North America, and many eat its flesh, while others keep it as a pet and teach it various tricks according to the inclination of the master and the animal. From this, it seems that it is annoyed with pigs, although Collinson is not sure he has seen that himself. He wonders if Linnaeus has observed it.

Collinson is very surprised at the way this bear catches oysters and eats them. It goes on the shore when the tide is out and looks for young oysters left above the water level, and it inserts its claws and opens them. If the oyster is hard to open, it holds it with its feet and rips it open.

The plants that Mitchell has received from Virginia flower and give seeds all through the year, each one at its proper time. If they do not grow in Sweden, Mitchell would say that it depends on the quality of the soil rather than the climate. The part of America, from which these plants come, is close to the sea, a low country with dry, light and sandy soil; so that it would seem that your northern soil is too heavy and loamy, more apt for indigenous plants. When these plants are moved into a colder region, it is inevitable that this kind of soil is less suitable. Mitchell thinks the same is true for all plants coming from a warm region, in which the force of the sun opens the soil so that the roots can grow more easily, in the same way that metals, hidden in a mineral, come out when you heat it. If God will, Mitchell will write more about this another time, if his mind and time permit it.

Mitchell is forced to interrupt his study of botany for some time, since he is about to make a report about a pest that rages in North America rather often and does so at present. Mitchell is forced to postpone all answers to Linnaeus’s questions until a later occasion.

A few days ago, Mitchell had made a botanical excursion together with Linnaeus’s friend Burmeister [Johan Henrik BurmesterBurmester, Johan Henrik
(1720-1770). Swedish. Professor of
economics, later of eloquence and poetry
at Lund. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
], who had collected several new plants from Collinson’s garden. If Burmeister wants to take care of specimens and plants for Linnaeus, Mitchell will prepare a set of them, just as he has already done for himself.

Mitchell thanks Linnaeus for the information about the Russian ashes. Mitchell had not seen that anywhere before. Mitchell is eager to receive a description of this from Linnaeus, even written in Swedish, since Burmeister will interpret it for Mitchell if it comes in time.

Mitchell has read Linnaeus’s description of the Anandria in the very accurate dissertation [De AnandriaLinnaeus, Carl Dissertatio
Botanica de Anandria
, diss., resp.
E. Z. Tursén (Uppsala 1745).
Soulsby no. 1434.
]. Mitchell is glad to see that Linnaeus has sent him Sponsalia plantarumLinnaeus, Carl Sponsalia
, diss., resp. J. G.
Wahlbom (Uppsala 1746). Soulsby no.
, but he has not yet received it or the others. This will please Lord Bute [John StuartStuart, John (1713-1792).
British. 3rd Earl of Bute. Scottish
nobleman who served as Prime Minister of
Great Britain (1762–1763) under George
] very much, who has asked Mitchell many times about this work by Linnaeus. Bute is the foremost of those who understand and appreciate Linnaeus’s system in England.

Mitchell is glad to see that Linnaeus has sent him seeds of Peloria. He has read Linnaeus’s dissertation about this plant, but he is not quite satisfied, especially not with the last part. He asks Linnaeus to inform him more about his latest observations in this plant. He asks if Linnaeus has seen Mitchell’s dissertation about the new botanical principle, [Mitchell refers to ”D.D. Jo. Mitchell Dissertatio brevis de principiis botanicorum et zoologorum”Mitchell, John ”D.D. Jo.
Mitchell Dissertatio brevis de
principiis botanicorum et zoologorum
deque novo stabiliendo naturae rerum
congruo, cum appendice aliquot generum
plantarum recens conditorum”, in
"Appendix", in Acta
Physico-Medica Academiae Caesare
Leopoldino-Franciscanae naturae
curiosorum exhibentia Ephemerides
, 8
(1748), 187-224.
] and there, Linnaeus will see how much use Mitchell has made of Peloria. Collinson sent this dissertation to Christopher Jacob TrewTrew, Christopher Jacob
(1695-1769). German. Botanist,
physician and counsellor of the margrave
of Ansbach.
long ago, and nothing has been heard from Trew, either good or bad.

Mitchell wonders how the Canadian beaver differs from the Russian and why there is this difference between the two. If Linnaeus could catch a beaver of the Russian kind, it could be possible to discover the truth as to the difference between the two beavers.

Mitchell has not yet seen Pehr KalmKalm, Pehr (1716-1779).
Swedish. Botanist and traveller,
professor of natural history at
Åbo. Disciple of Linnaeus.
Travelled in North America 1748-1751.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, but Mitchell will always be ready to see him or any other of Linnaeus’s friends.

P.S. Mitchell is surprised that Linnaeus mentioned Isaac LawsonLawson, Isaac (?-1747).
British. Scottish botanist and
physician. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
in his letter. Lawson died last May in the camp near Maastricht, where he worked as a doctor. The other things will be answered later.


a. original holograph (LS, XVII, 21v-22r).