Uppsala University Library

Acharius' Lichenographiæ Sueciæ prodromus

The manuscript D122 in the collections of Uppsala University Library is the author's own copy of Lichenographiæ Sueciæ Prodromus (Introduction to Swedish lichenology) with his own notes and additions.

In this copy the text is replete with many hand-written changes and additions, and lists of generic, species and variety names. Clearly this was Acharius’s working model for his book Methodus lichenum of 1803, and as such a volume of considerable historical and taxonomic interest.

View the Lichenographiæ

Erik Acharius (1757-1819), Linnaeus’s last student, and the founder of modern systematic lichenology, was a doctor in the country town of Vadstena, where he produced four books on lichenology. The first of these appeared early in 1799 (the title page gives 1798) and was an introduction to the lichens of Sweden, being a distillation of several lichenological papers published between 1794 and 1797. Acharius sent James Edward Smith a copy of the Lichenographiae for the Linnean Society Library in July 1799, and for this gift Smith proposed Acharius as a Foreign Member of the Society. Acharius also dedicated the Lichenographiae to the Linnean Society and later sent the Society a set of named lichens mentioned in his ground-breaking volume, the Methodus of 1803. This important lichen collection is now in the BM.

In 1992, a memorial plaque to Acharius (designed and cast by the renowned Swedish sculptor Liss Eriksson) was affixed to the end wall of the Acharius House in Vadstena under the auspices of the International Association for Lichenology. This memorial had as its major supporters the Linnean Society of London, the Swedish Linnean Society and the British Lichen Society, complemented by donations from the international lichenological community.

The manuscript D122 at the Uppsala University Library is Acharius’s personal, interleaved copy of the Lichenographiae, a handsome volume with a particularly luscious hand-painted frontispiece plate (drawn and coloured by Acharius himself) and with a text replete with many hand-written changes and additions, and lists of generic, species and variety names. Clearly this was Acharius’s working model for the Methodus of 1803, and as such a volume of considerable historical and taxonomic interest. The copy that Acharius sent to J.E. Smith for the Linnean Library has the frontispiece drawing completely blackened by age, whereas Acharius’s copy is as clean and fresh as the day it was painted.

The initiative to digitise this very important work by the famous Swedish lichenologist Acharius was due entirely to David Galloway, but sadly he passed away on 6 December 2014 before its completion. David, a graduate and doctorate of the University of Otago, New Zealand, worked at the Natural History Museum, London from 1973 to 1994, becoming Senior Research Fellow in 1982, and succeeding to Principal Scientific Officer and Head of the Lichen Division in 1987, before returning to New Zealand where he obtained a research position at Landcare Research in Dunedin.  He was President of the International Association of Lichenology, 1987-1992, and received its highest honour, the Acharius Medal in 2001.
Although he will be mainly remembered for his monumental Flora of New Zealand: Lichens, first published in 1985, and the extensively revised and expanded two-volume second edition published in 2007, his taxonomic expertise and encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of lichenology, more particularly of 18th and 19th century lichenologists, was called upon. The provision of an electronic version of Acharius’s personal interleaved copy of Lichenographiae suecicae Podromus, the funding for which was provided by Uppsala University Library, the British Lichen Society, the Linnean Society of London and Mark Seaward, is a fitting tribute not only to Erik Acharius but also to one of his distinguished successors.

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