Letter L0283
Letter written by Isaac Lawson
Letter addressed to Carl Linnaeus
 
Date 7 June 1739

Summary

Isaac Lawson starts his letter by commenting wittily on Linnaeus’s marriage, which he had heard about from Johan Frederik Gronovius.

The main part of this letter is however devoted to a report of Lawson’s long journey to famous mining districts in Germany in 1738. In Hannover he met Linnaeus’s dear friend Hugo. In Goslar he got an extremely nice reception and stayed for a month. From Goslar he went to Zellerfeld and Clausthal, where he inspects the mining works and is impressed by the efficiency as well as by the high moral standard of the population. After three weeks he leaves for Andreasberg where he visits the deepest mine in the whole region. Everywhere he collects minerals. Zuedlinburg is the next stop. Here he tries to put into order what he has collected and sends samples to Hieronymus David Gaub, Gronovius and Johann Kramer. He goes to Berlin and Halle. In Leipzig he meets Linnaeus’s friends Johann Ernst Hebenstreit and Christian Gottlieb Ludwig, in Dresden he meets Hencher who is eagerly looking forward to Linnaeus’s visit. In Freiberg he has daily meetings with Johann Friedrich Henckel, who is working on an extensive dictionary on minerals. After visiting several places in Saxony Lawson comes to the Bohemian town of Carlsbad, where he realises that his plans to visit Prague, Vienna and Hungary are not realistic. He returns to Holland after visiting some important places in Flanders. At the end of autumn Lawson is back in England. He would have written earlier to Linnaeus, had he only known his address.

Lawson has recently met Philip Miller who mentioned that Linnaeus has asked him for seeds. Unfortunately, Linnaeus forgot to specify which seeds, so the request cannot be fulfilled without supplementary information.

Lawson repeats his entreaty for Swedish minerals. He emphasises that he is very eager to study Linnaeus’s Philosophia botanica. He also comments on the sensational conflict between Linnaeus and Johann Georg Siegesbeck. A stern Linnean, he dismisses Siegesbeck’s attack as not worth answering.

Gronovius’s view that this pamphlet was not written by Siegesbeck but by a man from Wolfenbüttel is, however, not shared by Lawson. He believes that, basically, Siegesbeck admires and likes Linnaeus. If Siegesbeck was not the author of the pamphlet, Lawson would sooner suspect the person whose ears were offended by “vulva”, a perfectly normal word among physicians.

Lawson advises Linnaeus not to rush his writings; only after careful consideration, revision and polishing should he allow publishing. As a warning example Lawson mentions Conrad Wishoff, whose publications are bristling with misprints and are printed on poor paper. Lawson’s verdict about Wishoff is very severe, indeed; this trickster has but one interest in life: money.

John Andrew had been in London but returned recently to Oxford. He is a strong believer in Linnaeus’s sexual system and advocates it among his friends. Samuel Dale, the author of a book on pharmacology, died in March. In his will he bequeathed to the Apothecaries’ Society of London, Chelsea, his own herbarium, what he had got from John Ray and his botanical library.

Lawson wants to know everything that happens in Sweden, especially in the field of literature. How can exotic plants grow in Sweden with its long and cold winters? What happens in the realm of fossils? Above all he wants information about Linnaeus himself.

Lawson asks Linnaeus to remind Claes Sohlberg of his promise to send him minerals. Of his own accord Lawson will send minerals to his friends in Germany, and on Peter Collinson’s advice, he sent two books of sermons to a man i Pennsylvania with the secret motive to acquire minerals for his friends in exchange. This Lawson points out as a contrast to Sohlberg’s negligence. After visiting the Woodwardian collections in Cambridge and spending some days there with, Charles Mason, the director of these collections, Lawson realises that there are also interesting minerals in England.

Lawson complains of the great confusion around him caused by all the luggage that has arrived from his stay in Holland. However, he must take advantage of this opportunity to send a letter to Linnaeus with Peter Filenius. In the hope of getting a reply soon Lawson concludes his letter with his most affectionate greetings.

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