Letter L0220
Letter written by Johann Amman
Letter addressed to Carl Linnaeus
 
Date 26 November 1737

Summary

Johann Amman has received a letter from Linnaeus at Hartecamp a month ago (20 May 1720 n.s.). He thanks Linnaeus for all the botanical publications he got from him. He asks of Linnaeus to thank George Clifford for presenting Amman with the Musa Cliffortiana. Much information is expected from Linnaeusís intended catalogue of Cliffordís garden (the Hortus Cliffortianus).

Amman explains what he wrote to Johan Frederik Gronovius and Johan Jacob Dillenius about Linnaeusís new method of classification. He assures Linnaeus that in his letter to Gronovius he was only joking. He had not expected of Linnaeus to take offense. Amman remarked on the competition of husbands to one wife, because it was unsuitable to the laws and manners of the Russians. Amman was not speaking of the laws of Nature, instituted by God. As to Dillenius, Amman has told him, that Linnaeusís system was excellent for establishing and defining the genera of plants, though scarcely of any use as defining classes. Amman is still of this opinion. According to Linnaeusís method, plants which agree in the number of their stamens and pistils, though totally different in every other respect, are placed in the same class. Amman goes on discussing what kind of affinity there is in the number of stamens of Valeriana, Cyperus, Persicaria and Campanula etc. Amman has read Flora Lapponica and found many plants mentioned and described, which grow wild in the area of Petersburg. The figure and description of Betula nana has been sent by Amman to the Imperial Academy of Sciences at Petersburg two years ago. Amman has noticed that Linnaeus omits the synonyms of the Betula pumila of Georg Andreas Helwingís Flora quasimodo- genita sive Prussica. Linnaeusís Rubus arcticus is the same as Johann Christian Buxbaumís Rubus humilis flore purpureo in Plantarum minus cognitarum centuria, which was described in Sibiria 15 years ago by Daniel Gottlieb Messerschmied. The Osmunda Struthiopteris which grows abundantly around St Petersburg is the same plant as the Filix palustris maxima of Caspar Bauhinís Prodromus, and the Struthiofera of Abraham Munting. The same goes for Lonchitis Norwegica major of James Petiver. Munting and Petiver saw the seed-bearing leaves only, which are totally unlike the barren ones. This plant has led Amman to write a dissertation, which is to be printed in the Novi commentarii, on all the species of Ferns and in which he will also describe and figure some new kinds from America.

Amman has no doubt that the Genera plantarum are determined from living specimens. Yet the characters of some of them appear to have been taken from dried specimens only, or from figures and descriptions not altogether exact, such as those of the Horti Malabarici. Therefore it might be possible that many errors may occur.

In the Critica botanica Linnaeus had promised to account for numerous alterations of names. Amman presumes that Linnaeus has followed the rules laid down in the Fundamenta botanica. Still many of those rules may not be universally approved, any more than Linnaeusís changes of names. Amman asks of Linnaeus to consider what would be the consequence, if everybody were to lay down such laws and regulations as he pleases, thus overturning names, already known and approved by the best authors, for the sake of making new ones.

Johann Georg Siegesbeck will soon publish a critical dissertation, wherein Linnaeusís writings are found uncorrect. Amman has been given the opportunity to read it, as Johann Bernhard von Fischer, has succeded to leave it to print at the academical press. Siegesbeckís work is short, but its brevity is, in Ammanís opinion, counterbalanced by spite and arrogans. The same may be said of the principles of botany, prefixed to this treatise.

Amman encloses parts of a specimen, with capsules of Ceratocarpum, gathered in the furthest part of Siberia. If Linnaeus would like to send to Amman what he wants of the plants described in Buxbaumís Plantarum minus cognitarum centuria, or in the Novi commentarii, Amman hopes to send Linnaeus some of those next spring, along with his treatise on the rarer plants from Tartaria and Siberia, the Stirpium rariorum in imperio Rutheno sponte provenientium icones et descriptiones collectae, illustrated with decriptions and figures.

Amman takes farewell and wishes his friendship with Linnaeus will continue.

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