H e r b a r i u m   L i n n a e a n u m

The Linnaean Collection of the Herbarium of Moscow State University: digital images, comments, historical review.

S.A.  Balandin, I.A. Gubanov, C.E. Jarvis, S.R. Majorov, S.S. Simonov, D.D. Sokoloff and S.V. Sukhov




Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the creator of the binomial system of nomenclature for plants and animals which is the basis of modern systems of classification. The herbarium specimens studied by Linnaeus have considerable historical as well as nomenclatural significance as they are important for the typification of the plant names he described.

The Herbarium of Moscow State University (MW) is one of only a small number of Herbaria which possess original samples from Linnaeus’ own collections. The main part of Linnaeus’ own herbarium (more than 13,000 sheets) is now preserved at the Linnean Society of London. The specimens linked with Linnaeus at Moscow do not originate from a single and integrated collection. They were located in the four largest historical collections of the Herbarium of Moscow University, i.e. from those of F. Ehrhart, G.F. Hoffmann, C. Trinius and C.L. Goldbach. Ehrhart’s General Herbarium contains 31 sheets which were more or less certainly collected or studied by Linnaeus. Ehrhart was a pupil of Linnaeus from whom he received some specimens directly, while others came to him from Linnaeus filius, A. Dahl, and P.J. Bergius. Ehrhart’s collections were purchased by G.F. Hoffmann, later the first Head of the Botany Department at Moscow University, who took them to Russia. Hoffmann’s General Herbarium contains three specimens which may be connected with Linnaeus. They were received from C.P. Thunberg, J.A. Murray, and an unknown person, respectively.

At least five specimens from Trinius’ collection, although certainly never seen by Linnaeus, are probable duplicates of material that was studied by him. Some of them are almost certainly iso-lectotypes of Linnaean names.

Finally, 24 specimens linked with Linnaeus were found in Goldbach’s herbarium. The majority of them were collected in the Lower Volga Region by J. Lerche, and during the Second Kamchatka Expedition by J.G. Gmelin and G.W. Steller. The history of the acquisition of these specimens (which includes Steller’s tragic death, the receipt of some of the material by Linnaeus against the prohibition of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and the loss of the main part of the collection during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812) is included on the present CD.

The Linnaean collection of the Herbarium of Moscow University contains the proposed lectotype of a species described by Linnaeus (Astragalus physodes L.) as well as iso-lectotypes and original material for several other Linnaean plant names.

The CD-ROM contains digital images of every relevant specimen connected with Linnaeus (63 in total) preserved in the Herbarium of Moscow State University. The images are organised in a single database, which includes a comprehensive search-and-query mechanism. Each image of a specimen connected with Linnaeus is accompanied by extensive information, including nomenclatural comments written by C.E. Jarvis. This CD contains not only the digital images themselves, but also a specially created viewing and search-and-query engine. However, considerable space shortages forced us to reduce the resolution of the images and use a shrinking algorithm which resulted in some loss in quality. We have therefore included some of the full-size high-resolution images in the separate folder “bonus” in the root directory of the CD in order to demonstrate the advantages of the proposed scanning technique. These high-resolution files can be easily viewed with any appropriate viewer.

The CD-ROM also includes an overview on botany in Moscow, and Russia, between 1706 and 1843 in the context of the MW Linnaean collection, a history of the Herbarium of Moscow University, its scientific profile and structure of its collections, general information on the main herbaria in the world which contain Linnaean specimens, relevant references etc. The disk is illustrated by portraits of many famous botanists.

Fax: [+44] (0)20 7942 5529
Tel: [+44] (0)20 7942 5466
e-mail: A.Hutson@nhm.ac.uk

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