Library FAQs

Everything you need to know about Library & Archives at a glance.

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Who can use the Linnean Society Library?

The Library is open to the public, but our primary responsibility is to Fellows of the Linnean Society.

We kindly ask all readers to make an appointment, as the Library is often used for events or tours. We especially need to know in advance if you wish to consult manuscripts or original artwork, as these are often inaccessible at short notice.

What are the Library’s opening hours?

The Library is open from 10 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday. The Library is closed on UK Bank Holidays and over the Christmas / New Year period.

Can I borrow books from the Library?

Loans are available only to Fellows of the Linnean Society. Other learned societies in Burlington House may borrow items on behalf of their Fellows.

Please note that although the Library Catalogue will currently show “standard loan” for all items, certain books are reference only.

Please go to Use the Library or Visit Us for more information.

How can I find out what material the Library holds?

The Library Online Catalogue is available online and by using a PC in the Reading Room. The online catalogue now includes all printed monographs, portraits, as well as some manuscript holdings (especially Society Papers). Our historical collection of reprints, off-prints and preprints (“Opuscula”) is also searchable through the Online Catalogue.

Please note that although the Library Catalogue will currently show “standard loan” for all items, certain books are reference only.

The catalogues for serials, manuscripts, and illustrations are in paper formats in the Library Annexe. Library staff will be pleased to assist readers in searching for material.

Are there any other resources or databases available?

For research about all things Linnaean, the best starting point and most comprehensive resource is the Linnaeus Link Union Catalogue.

All of Linnaeus’ specimen collections have been digitised and are available to search and view online as part of the Society’s Online Collections. Included in the Online Collections are Linnaeus’ correspondence and his annotated books and manuscripts.

The Herbarium and Correspondence of Sir James Edward Smith are also available to view and search online.

The Online Collections also contain the Nepal plant drawings of Buchanan-Hamilton and the notebooks of Alfred Russel Wallace.

A great part of the historical correspondence collections has been transcribed. Transcriptions will be made available as PDFs in due course.

Please go to Projects & Resources for updates and more information.

How can I find information about past Fellows of the Society?

There are a number of resources available, especially printed Society lists and the Society’s publications, as well as material in the Society’s archives. We also have a database of past Fellows which staff can search on request.

Please email The Library of the Linnean Society of London if you have a biographical query.

Can I bring my bag into the Library?

Coats and bags are not permitted in the Library. Lockers are available in the basement.

Can I use my laptop in the Library?

Floor sockets are available in the Reading Room, but overseas visitors will need to bring their own adaptors. Wireless internet access is available on request.

Can I make photocopies in the Library?

Please ask a staff member. A case-by-case assessment is made on the basis of copyright restrictions and the condition, age or size of the material. Photocopies cost 10p per A4 page and 20p per A3 page. Colour-photocopying is 50p for A4 and £1 for A3.

Can I get digital copies of pictures in the Library collection?

Images can be obtained for private use and for publication. Fees may apply, especially for new or commissioned photography and scanning. Please refer to Images and Scans for more information.

Can I see the Linnaean collections?

Researchers may consult the collections by appointment: Please email The Library of the Linnean Society of London to make an appointment.

Guided tours of the Society’s rooms are available to groups, again by appointment: Please complete our Online Form if you would like to arrange a tour.

The Society also offers general Treasures Tours for individual visitors which include the Linnaean Collections. Please check the Events page for dates and to book a place.

What is the difference between ‘Linnaean’ and ‘Linnean’?

‘Linnaean’ is the adjective referring to Linnaeus himself, his works, his collections, his classification scheme and the system of nomenclature. ‘Linnean’ refers to the Society and accords with the name von Linné, which Linnaeus adopted after being ennobled in 1761.

Why are the collections of Linnaeus in London?

When Linnaeus died in 1778, Sir Joseph Banks offered to buy the collections, but their ownership passed on to Linnaeus’ son. When the younger Linnaeus died in 1783, the collections reverted to Linnaeus’ widow, who decided to sell them.

They were offered to Banks, but he decided against buying them. A young medical student, James Edward Smith, was attending a reception at Banks’ home when the offer arrived, and Banks advised Smith to buy the collections. The collections arrived safely in London in 1784.

Smith founded the Linnean Society in 1788 in order to enable scientists to study the collections, and the Society bought the collections from Smith’s widow in 1828.

Who were the Linnaean ‘Apostles’?

This was the name Linnaeus gave to his students, many of whom travelled the world and supplied him with specimens. Twenty-three of them became professors and helped in the widespread acceptance of his classification scheme.