Ref NoMS/313a
TitleScientific and General papers - Sir James Edward Smith
AdminHistorySir James Edward Smith (1759-1828), MD, FRS, PLS, was one of the preeminent British botanists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and the principal founding member and first President of the Linnean Society of London. Smith was a prolific author who helped introduce and popularise botany with new audiences.

Smith was born on 2 December 1759 at Norwich, Norfolk, to James Smith (1727-1795) and Frances (1731-1820). A sickly child, he began his botanical studies reportedly on the day of Carl Linnaeus' (1707-1778) death, 10 January 1778. In 1781 Smith enrolled at the University of Edinburgh to study medicine, the only way to study botany at university at the time. Smith moved to London in 1783 to continue his medical studies, without taking a degree. Following the death of Carl Linnaeus the younger (1741-1783), and with the assistance of Sir Joseph Banks' (1743-1820) connections and his father's finances Smith purchased the collections of Carl Linnaeus for 1,000 guineas. This brought Smith instant regard within the scientific community and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1785. In 1786 Smith embarked on a tour of Europe, gaining a medical degree at Leyden, Holland, before travelling through France, Switzerland, and Italy, where he met many of the greatest botanists and scientists of the period.

In 1788 Smith founded the Linnean Society of London with Samuel Goodenough (1743-1827) and Thomas Marsham (1748-1819), and became its first President, a position he held for life. His first major serial publication, "English Botany", a collaboration with illustrator James Sowerby (1757-1822), appeared in 1790, which with subsequent works "Flora Britannica" (1800-1804) and "English Flora" (1824-1828) proved to be among the most popular, accessible, and accurate records of the British flora to date. Again in collaboration with Sowerby, "A Specimen of the Botany of New Holland" (1793-1795), was the first published book on the flora of Australia. He also edited and translated several works by Linnaeus, and edited John Sibthorp's "Flora Graeca" (1806-1837). Smith contributed many papers to "Transactions of the Linnean Society of London" and other journals.

Smith held regular lectures in Liverpool and at the Royal Institution in London, and also took on private pupils, including Queen Charlotte and the Princesses. His works "An Introduction to Physiological and Systematical Botany" (1807) and "A grammar of botany" (1821) helped introduce botany to new audiences and were reprinted several times. His status as keeper of Linnaeus' scientific reputation gave Smith a privileged position amongst Europe’s botanists, and he was regularly sent new plant specimens from around the world to identify and classify.

Smith married Pleasance Reeve (1773-1877) on 1 March 1796 and they moved to Norwich in 1797; there were no children. Smith was knighted in 1814, and from 1813 to 1819 was involved in an ill-fated campaign to become Professor of Botany at Cambridge University. Smith was a nonconformist and supported causes including the abolition of slavery and Greek independence, and his criticism of the French monarchy ended his professional relationship with Queen Charlotte.

A prolific correspondent, Smith communicated with many important botanists and scientists, including Sir Joseph Banks, Robert Brown (1773-1858), Thomas Pennant (1726-1798), and William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865).

Smith built up an extensive library and herbarium to complement the Linnaean collections, all of which were purchased by the Linnean Society after his death on 17 March 1828.
DescriptionVolume 1
Varia: Scientific:

1) "An Essay on Collecting and preserving Speciments of Plants, read before the Society for the Investigation of Natural History at Edinburgh. April 19th, 1782, by James Edward Smith of Norwich." 38 folios, 18x11cm.

2) "On the Phenomena of Vegetable Odours", read before the Society for the Investigation of Natural History at Edinburgh. December 19th, 1782, by James Edward Smith of Norwich. 14 folios written on both sides, 20x16cm.

3) A shorter paper with the same title as above, dated 19 Agust, 1783. 2 folios written on both sides, 38x24cm.

4) Letter from Studley Martin, dated Liverpool, 15 January, 1783, to Lady [Pleasance] Smith, enclosing a table of differences between the two foregoing, and letter from Lady S, dated Lowestoft, 27 January, 1872, enclosing same to the Linnean Society.

5) Pocket notebook with marbled covers entitled "Desiderata Banksiana, January 1785". Contains a list by Smith in two columns to each page, of about 2,000 species. Some of the entries are cancelled in red ink, and of these species, Smith supplied Banks with specimens from the Linnean Herbarium. 18 folios, written on both sides, 16x10cm.

6) A glossary of Greek names of plants with their Latin equivalents. Headed "J. E. Smith, e. MSS. amici opt. Hugonis Rose". Undated, but anterior to 1792, probably much earlier. 6 folios, written on both sides, 20x16cm.

7) "A Natural History of North American Insects, particularly those the State of Georgia" by John Abbot. In Abbot's autobiography, undated, but prior to 1797. 18 folios, written on both sides and incomplete, 20x16cm. This MSS was the basis of Smith's publication "Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia", London, 1797.

8) Pocket notebook, headed "Remarks on the Dillenian Herbarium made at Oxford, May 12, 1803". By Smith comprising 8 folios, written on both sides, 15.5x10cm.

9) Description of Parmelia Borreri and Lecidea aromatica, dated 1806. Not by Smith, 2 folios, 37x23cm.

10) Critical notes on the "English Botany". Writer unknown, undated. 14 folios, written on both sides, 19.5x16cm.

11) Notes on a Resin Tree. Writer unknown, undated. 2 folios, 23x19cm.

12) Characters of a species marked by Smith "Jacquiniae nov.sp" and descripion of "Nutmeg tree mention'd in Long's History of Jamaica". Autograph possibly of Dr Thomas Dancer, undated, 3 folios, 26x21cm.

13) Characters of Aretia helvetica and three other plants with specimens, annotated by Smith, undated, writer unknown (foreign). 1 folio, 24x18cm.

14) Comments on various determinations in "English Botany", dated Henfield, December 15, 1813. Signed W. B[orrer], June, 2 folios, 24x19cm. [See I, s.v. BORRER, No 7.]

15) "Thoughts on the Study of Nature by Mr Merlet de la Boulaye, Secretary to the Botanical Society of Angers". By Smith, undated, 6 folios, written on both sides, 32.5x21cm.

16) Observations on Conferva gelatinosa and C. atra. Possibly by Dawson Turner. Undated, 2 folios, 26x21cm.

17) Description of two alpine plants. Lat. Writer unknown, undated, 2 folios, 32x21cm.

18) Descriptions of Jonesia Asoca by Sir William Roxburgh. Undated, initiated W. R. 2 folios, 33x20.5cm. [See Roxburgh, no 7].

19) List headed, "Mr de Saussure's Lichens of the Col du Geant sent to Smith by Mandrot 1792". By E. Darau, 1 folio, 36x22cm.

20) List headed "Plants to send to J. E. S. by Mr Mandrot 1794". 1 folio, 36x22cm.

21) List headed "List of Seeds for Dr Smith fron Dr Buchanan, Botanical Garden, Bengal, Sept, 1977" [161 species] 2 folios, 32.5x20.5cm.

22) List headed "Salices from Mr. Crowe's garden, 1803". 2 folios, 33x20.5cm.

23) List headed: "Salix. Mr Crowe's garden". By Smith [42+16 species, with references]. 1 folio, 36x23.5cm.

24) Another similar list, much worn, probably draft No.23. 2 folios, 30x18.5cm.

25) List headed "Willows for Mrs. Mackie to be had at Mrs. Corw's". By Smith [15 species of Salix.], 1 folio, 22.5x19cm.

26) List headed "Huds[on] & With[ering]-Conf[ervae]". By Smith [9 species, also 5 species "from Vaucher" and 1 sp."from Mr. Turner's herbm".] 1 folio, 25.5x21cm.

27) List headed "Conferva". By Smith, 1 folio, 34x21.5.

28) List headed "Ceramium". As last.

29) List of plants without heading. Writer unknown, annotated by Smith. [Written on the back of a printed leaflet dated 11 July, 1802. 1 folio, 33x21.5cm.]

30) List headed "Guernsey lilies". By Smith, 1 folio, 24x18cm. [A list of persons, presumably to whom specimens were sent.}

31) List headed: "Mr. Backhouse's desiderata." Written by B, dated 15 March 1814, and signed, 2 folios, 23x19cm.

32) List headed "Seeds given to Loddiges-February 15, 1826 (from Mrs J. Stacey)." 1 folio, 24x19cm.

33) List headed "Tulips marked- May 24, 1824". By Smith, 1 folio, 12x9cm.

34) List headed by Smith. "Sent September. 1820 by J. F. S. & December 20 by do". Writer unknown, 2 folios, 25.5x20cm.

35) List headed "Cuttings sent Prof. Mertens. April 1, 1818." By Smith [18 species of Salix.] 1 folio, 18x17.5cm.

36) List headed "Seeds collected at the River Derwent, Van Diemen's Land, 1817-8". Endorsed "For Edward Lord, Esq." Writer unknown, 1 folio, 32x21cm.

37) List headed "A Catalogue of rarer plants growing wild in the neighbourhood of Settle, Yorkshire, within a circuit of about 10 miles. Found by J. Windsor." 2 folios, 25x20cm.

38) List headed "Catalogue des plantes en harbier." Unsigned and undated (watermark, 1819) 2 folios, 33x20.5cm.

39) Notes on Mosses and other Cryptogams. By Smith. At the foot of the first sheet is the date 13 July, 1779, but the list is later as a letter dated 1803 is quoted in it. 1 folio, 33x20cm.

40) Fragment of a list in same handwriting as No. 29 and perhaps part of it.

41) List headed "Andrews" with references. [Probably notes on H. C. Andrews's Botanist's Repository, 1797-1812.] By Smith. 1 folio, 35x22cm.

42) List headed "List of Hudson's Collection of Insects", unsigned and undated. 1 folio, 34x21cm.

43) List headed "Note of a Collection of Russian Minerals". Unsigned and undated. 2 folios, 32.5x20.5cm.

44) Letter dated Soho Square, 6 January, 1830, from David Don to Lady [Pleasance] Smith enclosing a list of Smith's contributions to Rees's Cyclopedia, and a rough list in pencil by Lady Smith. 6 folios.

45) Wrapper enclosing tracings of 28 drawings for the Lachesis Lapponica.

46) Miscellaneous notes, jottings, labels and slips found loose amongst Smith's papers. 10 folios, various sizes. [One is the autograph of A. B. Lambert and another is that of John Latham.]
Date1782-1830
LevelItem
Extent1 of 2 bound volumes
LanguageEnglish
Related MaterialMS/313b
Finding_AidsW.Dawson Cat.of ms.Pt.1
Creator NameSmith, James Edward
Access_StatusOpen
Persons
CodePersonNameDates
GB/110/1/11Smith; Sir; James Edward (1759-1828); Knight; botanist1759-1828
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