Skip navigation |

Library and Collections of J.E. Smith

The Society preserves the books, correspondence, archives, and manuscripts of Sir James Edward Smith, founder and first President of the Linnean Society.

For information about the herbarium and carpological specimen collections of Smith, click HERE

Biography

Portrait of James Edward Smith by Thomas Rising, 1793James Edward Smith was one of the most pre-eminent British botanists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and was a principal founding member and first President of the Linnean Society of London. Smith was a prolific author who helped introduce botany to and popularise it with new audiences.

Smith was born on 2 December 1759 at Norwich, Norfolk, to James and Frances Smith, and it is said that he first began studying botany on the day of Carl Linnaeus’ death, 10 January 1778.

To read more of this biography, click HERE

Books

Title page of Smith's "Flora Britannica"The personal reference library of Smith contains over 2,000 books. Many of the books were sent to Smith as gifts or exchanges with fellow naturalists, and include some of the most important botanical works of the period. Some are annotated by Smith.

It also includes copies of Smith’s own works.

Smith’s library is available to search within the main Online Library Catalogue.

Correspondence

Address label for letter sent from William Roscoe to James Edward SmithSmith’s correspondence collection contains over 3,000 letters from 400 correspondents. The collection largely comprises letters received by Smith, though in a few instances his outgoing letters have been recovered and a complete exchange is present.

The correspondence contains detailed discussion of plants, specimens, habitats, publications, and other botanists and scientists, as well as first-hand accounts and opinions on the political figures, medicine, social unrest, contemporary culture, and wars of the period.

The collection also includes engravings, sketches, drawings, lists of desiderata, and botanical, entomological, and ornithological specimens.

The letters have been conserved, catalogued, and digitised, and are now available online (see Online Collections).

See also Warren Dawson’s Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of The Linnean Society - Part I. The Smith papers: The correspondence and miscellaneous papers of Sir James Edward Smith (1934).

Archives and Manuscripts

The Society also holds archives relating to Smith’s life. It includes a collection of diplomas Smith received from societies and institutions from around the world, manuscript copies of several of Smith’s works, drafts of letters and papers, page proofs, notebooks, catalogues of plants, various scientific pamphlets and lists, various general papers and lists, and printed material.

For more information see Warren Dawson’s Catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of The Linnean Society - Part I. The Smith papers: The correspondence and miscellaneous papers of Sir James Edward Smith (1934).