Linnaean Herbarium Cabinet

Linnaean Herbarium Cabinet
Linnaean Herbarium Cabinet

At the Conversazione on the 8th July 2016, The Linnean Society celebrated Professor Gren Lucas’ 20 years as Treasurer. To mark this occasion and to honour his work and legacy for the Society, Botany and Nature, The Linnean Society commissioned the conservation and display of the Herbarium Cabinet of Carl Linnaeus. It is one of the three original cabinets designed by Linnaeus himself and built to house his Herbarium. In his Philosophia Botanica (1751), Linnaeus gives detailed instructions how the cabinet should be designed and built: "A wooden cupboard, which can be closed by two long folding doors, nicely corresponding to a vertical partition."

The now ubiquitous way of storing dried plants mounted on standard-sized loose sheets of paper slotted into shelves or drawers according to an agreed system was innovative, and revolutionised Herbaria and Botany. As Staffan Muller-Wille FLS puts it: "Understanding the significance of this seemingly mundane and simple invention opens a window onto the profound changes that natural history underwent in the 18th century."

Linnaeus’ Cabinet embodies these profound changes – creating “order out of chaos”. It was a huge leap forward from plants pasted into bound albums, where their order could not be changed, and individual plants could not be juxtaposed and compared. The practical advantage for the busy Botanist is emphasised by Linnaeus: "[A]ny plant can be pulled out and produced without delay."

The Society hopes to display the Cabinet it with other exhibits and interpretive features to share its story with Fellows, and as part of our Education and Public Engagement activities. 

The Society has committed to underwrite the cost up to the £4,400 estimate towards its conservation and associated works relating to display and interpretation features. We now invite Fellows who have known and worked with Gren over the past twenty years to become part of this gesture to honour his remarkable service. A plaque would not only celebrate Gren’s legacy as a Treasurer, but also the esteem and affection in which he is held by Fellows, friends, and the Society, who have made this tribute possible.

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