Ref NoMS/238
TitleCorrespondence of Richard Pulteney
AdminHistoryRichard Pulteney (1730-1801) was born at Mountsorrel, Leicestershire, on 17 February 1730 to Samuel Pulteney and Mary Tomlinson. He attended the Old Free School, Loughborough, and was then apprenticed for seven years to an apothecary of Loughborough, named Harris, who, during Pulteney's apprenticeship, moved to Mountsorrel. Following his apprenticeship, Pulteney began to practise as a surgeon and apothecary at Leicester.

In 1750 he contributed his first literary work to the 'Gentleman's Magazine' (vol. xx.), and afterwards became a constant contributor to that periodical. Most of his articles were either anonymous or signed with the initials R.P.. They are mainly on botanical topics, such as the works of Linnæus, fungi, and the sleep of plants. Pulteney communicated several botanical and medical papers to the Royal Society, through Dr (afterwards Sir William) Watson, and was by him introduced, among others, to Lord Macclesfield, then president of the society, and to William Hudson (1730?-1793), the botanist.

In 1764 Pulteney accompanied his friend, Maxwell Garthshore, to Edinburgh to obtain a degree and he graduated M.D. in May 1764. Pulteney then went to London, and was introduced by Mrs Montagu to William Pulteney, earl of Bath, who acknowledged him as a kinsman, and appointed him his physician, and invited him to accompany him abroad; but the earl died in the same year (1764). Following this, Pulteney secured a practice as physician at Blandford, Dorset. His circuit included all of Dorset and parts of Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Somerset, and in time he made a considerable fortune.

In his spare time he focussed on botany and conchology, maintaining a regular correspondence with Hudson, John Martyn, Withering, Sir James Edward Smith, Relhan, and A.B. Lambert, constantly examining the gardens of Henry Seymer of Hanford, the Rev. Thomas Rackett of Spettisbury, and other neighbours, and assisting Seymer and the Dowager Duchess of Portland in naming their collections of shells. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1762, an extra-licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1765, and a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1790.

In 1790 Pulteney contributed a 'Catalogue of rare Plants found in the Neighbourhood of Leicester, Loughborough, and Charley Forest' to Nichols's 'History of Leicestershire', and in 1799, 'Catalogues of the Birds, Shells, and rare Plants of Dorsetshire' to the second edition of Hutchins's 'History of Dorset', which Maton describes as 'one of the most valuable provincial catalogues connected with natural history that has hitherto been published in England'. Pulteney was revising a plate for this catalogue, representing fossils found by him at Melbury, when he was seized by his last illness. Separate copies of both catalogues were published, and an enlarged edition of the latter, with a memoir of the author, was published in 1813; but in the third edition of Hutchins's 'History' it is replaced by lists by Mr J.C. Mansel Pleydell. Pulteney also contributed to Aikin's 'England Delineated', and assisted Emanuel Mendes da Costa with his 'British Conchology', and Coxe with the literary history of naturalists connected with the countries described in his 'Travels'.

In 1779 Pulteney married Elizabeth, daughter of John and Elizabeth Galton of Shapwick, Dorset, who died 28 April 1820. There were no children of the marriage, but Pulteney adopted a relative of his wife as a daughter. Pulteney died of pneumonia at Blandford, 13 October 1801. His library, many of the books in which he had indexed in manuscript, was sold by Leigh & Sotheby in 1802, and his museum of shells and minerals and his herbarium were bequeathed to the Linnean Society, to be either kept as a separate collection, or to be sold to provide funds for an annual medal. The collections were sold in 1863. The herbarium is now in the British Museum.

See MS/238d/1/34, MS/238d/1/36 and MS/238d/1/38 for autobiographical details which Pulteney outlines in letters to Sir William Watson.
DescriptionCorrespondence of Richard Pulteney, dated 1733 - 1810. Correspondents are listed in alphabetical order (with a file created for each individual and biographical details where known), and each letter contains the date, a summary of the content, and the place of writing (where known).

Subjects discussed include medical matters (e.g. comparing of treatments and discussion of individual patients with other doctors), loaning and returning of books, deliveries of specimens and papers, Linnaeus' classification system in practice and reception to it, personal news and affairs, political and contemporary events, job opportunities, descriptions of specimens and scientific experiments, religious matters, and other general correspondence.

Consists of 4 series of records: MS/238a - MS/238d.
Date1733 - 1829
Extent4 boxes
NotesA finding aid for this series can be found in the library annexe.
AcquisitionThe correspondence collection was a donation to the Linnean Society in October 1951 from John H. Robins, of Carlton Hall, Carlton Husthwaite, Nr. Thirsk, Yorks.
Creator NameRichard Pulteney correspondence
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