Library & Archives


The books cover the literature of biology from 1483 to date, with especially strong collections of eighteenth and nineteenth century titles in all languages. Special areas of interest include plant and animal classification, Darwinism and the evolutionary controversy, conchology, ornithology, early mycology, expedition reports, ecology, and wildlife conservation. There is a great number of annotated books by either the author or the owner of the book.

We hold Alfred Russel Wallace’s own copy of John Lindley’s Elements of Botany, Thomas Martyn’s copy of Linnaeus' Species Plantarum, and T P Yeats’ Institutions of Entomology, annotated by Sydenham T Edwards with charming marginal drawings of insects, in microscopic life-size.

The Insch Tea Library Collection came to the Linnean Society in 1951, and comprises over 300 books and pamphlets on the history, cultivation and use of tea, dating from 1668 to the middle of the twentieth century. Many of the books are lavishly bound and illustrated.


Approximately 300 serials are currently taken, with over 2,000 earlier serial titles, not available on the online Library Catalogue. They are in all languages, from most countries, and cover a wide spectrum of biology, but with an emphasis on taxonomy and systematics. A special feature of the collection is the large number of early titles from academic institutions, some dating from the seventeenth century.


The manuscript collections date mostly from the mid-1750s, but also include recent collections, especially those related to nature conservation. The manuscript catalogue is currently available on typed cards or individual lists. Important scientific papers include the notebooks and journals kept by Alfred Russel Wallace while collecting in Asia.

Scientific Papers further include Researches on fungi by Frederick Currey and Notebooks by George Montagu on shells, worms, and mollusks.

Lists of descriptions of plants and animals include:

  • John Forster’s descriptions of animals seen during Cook’s second voyage
  • Pehr Kalm’s descriptions of North American plants
  • Solander’s catalogue of Banks’s shells
  • Patrick Browne’s catalogue of the plants of Jamaica and other sugar colonies


Most manuscripts form collections of individual letters of James Edward Smith, Richard Pulteney, George Bentham and William Swainson, Alexander MacLeay, William Sharp MacLeay, Peter Collinson, and John Ellis.


Journals and diaries, particularly of voyages, include Alexander Anderson’s visits to the West Indies in 1803; Joseph Omer-Cooper’s diary of an expedition to Abyssinia in 1926; transcripts or facsimiles of Archibald Menzies’ journal of Vancouver’s voyages between 1790 and 1794; and Olof Rudbeck’s diary of a journey to Lapland in 1695.

Linnean Society Archives

Our Archives record local, national and international intellectual and scientific history, including original copies of some of the papers presented at the scientific meetings of the Linnean Society. These papers are often accompanied by drawings and the referee’s report on the paper.


Archives of other organisations

The Library holds the archives of the Linnean Club, the Zoological Club, the Society for Promoting Natural History, the Botanical Society of London Minutes from 1844-1851 and H.M. Treasury Committee on Botanical Work of 1900-1901.

Recent acquisitions include important collections of wildlife conservation manuscripts and archives, including the papers of the British Coelenterata Society, the Council for Nature archives, and papers from several Fellows who were closely involved with the founding and development of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

We also hold John Hooper's bat archive, containing invaluable field data.

The Society stores (but does not own) the archives and manuscripts of the Selborne Society, which includes Gilbert White’s correspondence and sermons. Permission for access to this must be obtained from the Selborne Society.


The Library has a large collection of illustrations of flora and fauna, including original drawings and paintings, published work and proof copies of published material.


Portraits and Photographs

The Linnean Society holds an impressive collection of portraits in various media. The majority of the portraits and prints have now been added to the online catalogue.