Collection TitleOtto Stapf Papers
TitleOtto Stapf Papers
DescriptionThe collection contains mainly files of botanical papers, some contain photographs and sketches; a few Persian files contain information on the logistics of the expedition as well as geographical information, there is also a file of maps of Persia. Also comprises one file of correspondence and some fossil records.
Creator NameStapf, Otto (1857-1933)
Date19th-20th Centuries
Extent47 files, 1 item
Administrative HistoryOtto Stapf was the son of Joseph Stapf, and was born on March 23rd, 1857, at Ischl, Austria, where his father was Oberbergrat (senior counsellor of mines). His father soon after took charge of the salt springs at Hallstadt, and here he spent his boyhood.

Otto Stapf commenced his botanical studies under Professor Wiesner at Vienna and was awarded the degree of Ph.D. at the end of his University course. He then became Assistant to Professor Kerner von Marilaun in 1882, and a Privat Docent (Associate Professorship) in 1887. In 1885 he travelled in Persia and made a notable collection of plants; and during the years 1885-1889 he published a series of papers mainly dealing with the flora and vegetation of the Orient, and particularly of Persia. The most important of these were the account of the botanical results of the Polak expedition to Persia in 1882, and revision of the genus Ephedra. Early in 1890, when sending Sir Joseph Hooker a copy of his Ephedra monograph, he explained his reasons for wishing to leave Vienna. Later in that year he was offered the post of Assistant for India at Kew by Sir William Thiselton-Dyer, the post which had been vacated by W. B. Hemsley. Stapf accepted this offer and arrived in England in November 1890, making a tour of European botanic gardens on his way. He commenced his work as Assistant for India at Kew in January 1891.

During his early years Stapf paid special attention to the Asiatic Melastomaceae and his paper on the Sonerileae of Asia was published in the Annals of Botany. The large collection of plants made by Dr. G. D. Haviland on Mount Kinabalu in North-eastern Borneo was placed in Dr. Stapf's hands for identification on its receipt in 1892, and the results of his work on the collection were incorporated in a comprehensive account of the flora of Mount Kinabalu which he contributed to the Linnean Society. On the completion of this work in 1894, Stapf assisted Sir Joseph Hooker in his elaboration of the Gramineae for the Flora of British India and devoted much of his time to the work.

He was appointed in 1899 as Principal Assistant in the Herbarium, his knowledge of European languages was of great value to him and to Kew. A very large number of detailed drawings of the spikelets of grasses are scattered throughout most of the genera in the Herbarium. These are of great value in determining specimens and show that he was a draughtsman much above the average. While most of his published work was concerned purely with systematic botany, his interests were far wider; he was always interested in the geographical distribution of plants, his principal contribution to that branch of study being an account of the Southern Element in the British Flora.

After becoming Keeper of the Herbarium, Stapf had naturally less time for original investigation. However, he continued to work on the Gramineae throughout his Keepership, naming all the grasses in the new collections received during that period, and gradually getting the material already in the Herbarium into good order.

Stapf retired in 1922 but continued to work as actively as before. He was Editor of the "Botanical Magazine " from 1922 until his death, and under the auspices of the Royal Horticultural Society raised the scientific standard of the Magazine. Although Stapf's main interests were scientific he was also very fond of literature and art in its broadest sense. He died on 4 Aug 1933 while on holiday in Austria.

For full biography and details of published work see JSTOR: BULLETIN OF MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION No. 8 1933 Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, XLVI.
Custodial HistorySome of the records were found in the Herbarium and transferred to the Archives. It is thought that the bulk of the collection was transferred to the Library after Otto Stapf's death in 1933.
SeriesSTA/1 Papers on Persia; STA/2 Papers on Grasses; STA/3 Other Botanical Papers; STA/4 Correspondence; STA/5 Fossil Records.
LanguageEnglish, German, Latin, French
Physical DescriptionSome of the files contain fragile material. Handle with care.
Related MaterialOtto Stapf Correspondence in other Collections: Director's Correspondence (DC) Vol 117 English Letters RAM-ZAM 1906-1910 (f 1518); DC Vol 129 English Letters - Balfour-Elwes-Gamble (1894-1925) (f 176); DC Vol 131 English Letters -Dublin Trinity College Botanical Garden; Royal Botanic Garden Glasnevin 1900-1920 (f 351); DC Vol 140 German Letters L-Z 1858-1900 (1280-1300); DC Vol 141 German & Austrian Letters 1901-1914 (ff 193-194); DC Vol 144 French Letters 1901-1914 (ff 452-455); DC Vol 170 Australia & Tasmania Letters 1899-1914 (f 103); DC Vol 180 North African & Atlantic Island Letters 1901-1914 (f 395). Also, Letters to William Thiselton-Dyer Vol 4 (ff 37-42). See also QX 0011 Sorghum Papers as this collection contains a file by Dr Stapf consisting of notes on Sorghum species with other references.
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