Collinson-Bartram Papers, 1732-1773

Mss.B.C692.1

Date: 1732-1773 | Size: 0.25 Linear feet, 37 items.

Abstract

This collection is principally letters to Collinson about seeds, plants, and gardens from seed cultivators and owners of country estates, including Cadwallader Colden, John Hanbury, Lord and Lady Petre, the Duke of Norfolk, the Duke of Richmond, Sir Hans Sloane, and Daniel Solander. There are also several letters of John Bartram to William Bartram and Philip Miller.

Background note

Peter Collinson (1694–1768) was an English merchant and botanist. He was a partner in his father's London trading business, and he remained a merchant throughout his life. However, at a young age, he also developed a passion for botany. He eventually wrote numerous essays on natural history topics for the Gentleman's Magazine, and he contributed many reports to the Society of Antiquaries and to the Royal Society, of which he was a member. His extensive network of correspondents in Europe and North America placed Collinson at the nexus of the community of eighteenth century European and American natural scientists.

Peter Collinson was born in London, the son of the Quaker and London cloth merchant Peter Collinson and his wife Elizabeth Hall. Young Peter's love of plants apparently stemmed from a garden owned by relatives with whom he lived as a boy and which he later inherited. However, Collinson is known less for his own original contributions to natural science than for his tireless support of the work of others. His publications and affiliation with the Royal Society brought him in contact with many eminent European naturalists and scientists of his day, including Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), Stephen Hales (1677-1761), and J. J. Dillenius (1684-1747). He also knew the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778, APS 1769), who named horse balm (Collinsonia canadensis) after him. Collinson was always supportive of the work of ordinary gardeners and plantsmen, such as Philip Miller (1691-1771), the gardener of the Chelsea Physic Garden, and the nurseryman James Gordon, who helped maintain the extensive gardens of Lord Petre, Collinson's close friend and patron of scientific endeavors.

Collinson's numerous contacts with fellow botanists placed him at the center of a large network of mid-eighteenth century European and American naturalists. It was through his family's extensive trade in the cloth business with North America that he got to know a number of Americans. They included Alexander Garden (1730-1791, APS 1768), Cadwallader Colden (1688-1776, APS 1768), Benjamin Franklin and John Bartram (1699-1777, APS 1768).

Collinson and Bartram were particularly close friends. In the early 1730s, Bartram wrote to Collinson soliciting the post of king's botanist in North America. While Collinson was not able to secure the position for another three decades, the two men arranged for Bartram to send seeds and seedlings to British subscribers. This group eventually numbered more than sixty men and included some of the most prominent botanists and landscape designers in Britain. Moreover, beginning in 1733, the two men engaged in a lively exchange of ideas and specimen that lasted until Collinson's death in 1768. Collinson communicated many of Bartram's studies to the Royal Society, which published Bartrams observations in the Philosophical Transactions. The naturalist John Fothergill (1712-1780, APS 1770) one of Collinson's close friends, wrote that the "eminent naturalist, John Bartram, may almost be said to have been created such by my friend's assistance." John Bartram's son William acknowledged Collinson's crucial role in his father's career, noting that "it was principally through the interest of Collinson that he [John Bartram] became acquainted, and entered into correspondence with, many of the most celebrated literary characters in Europe, and was elected a member of the Royal Society of London, of Stockholm, etc." Collinson, who maintained his own extensive garden, introduced several American plants into Britain, including the American alder, three species of azalea, black birch, hemlock, sugar maple, mountain laurel, and many medicinal herbs.

Collinson and Franklin also maintained a long friendship marked by an active correspondence. Their shared interests included the discovery of mastodon bones in North America and, more famously, topics related to electricity. In fact, it was Collinson who introduced Franklin's ideas on electricity to the Royal Society; the Society not only published them but also recognized Franklin's work with the Copley medal in 1753. Franklin admired Collinson's qualities as a scientist and as a man. He wrote that "if we may estimate the goodness of a man by his disposition to do good, and his constant endeavors and success in doing it, I can hardly conceive that a better man has ever existed."

Collinson's interests in North American matters also included the promotion of crop experiments in the colonies. In addition, he was an early patron of the American Philosophical Society, though not a member, and for many years served as purchasing agent for the Library Company of Philadelphia.

In 1724 Peter Collinson married Mary Russell. They had two children.

Scope and content

This collection consists of 47 items dated between 1731 and 1973, with the bulk of material from the 1740s and 1760s. The collection consists of letters and two diary entries related to Collinson's interest in plants, and his role in procuring specimen and seeds for a number of notables in England. Most of the letters refer to requests for plants and seeds, specimens received or expected, or information about matters pertaining to natural history.

There are several letters by Lord and Anne Petre regarding the collection of plants, including orders and billing. They include a bill for plants by Lorenzo Costa (1741) made out to Lord Petre, with a letter by Petre and a note by Philip Miller. Also included is a letter by Anne Petre regarding a catalogue that Miller was supposed to have delivered to Collinson (1743), as well as several letters by her that deal with the accounts of individuals who had ordered or received plants, including the Duke of Richmond, the Duke of Norfolk, and John Hanbury (1743). The letters by Anne Petre also refer to her sending items to "her good friend" Collinson, such as a turkey and pigs, and on one occasion she requests him to get some damask for her son's new coat.

Additional material that documents Collinson's interest in plants are the letters he exchanged with his "botanical friends." A letter by the Duke of Norfolk to Collinson speaks fondly of the way Lord Petre thought of Collinson and thanks him for "the assistance & encouragement you are so liberal in to the advancement of planting & improvements" (1743). "The Old Patron of Gardening & Planting" wrote in a letter to Lord Montfort (1765) that he had supplied a number of people with "Boxes of Seeds for near 40 years past & given my Time & Trouble, without the least profit or advantage." In addition, a letter by Cadwallader Colden apologizes that his preoccupation with public affairs has prevented him from sending seeds; he also refers to Peter Kalm's visit to Albany as well as the "Leghorn Voyage" [1748]. A playful letter by Guilerma Bowles of Spain assures Collinson of the favorable reception his letter received from the "lordship" (1764).

Other correspondence that discusses topics related to botany include a letter by John de Ponthieu (1765), who sends greetings to all his "botanical friends," as well as the correspondence with H. Trelawny and Mr. Gordon (1761), Thomas Bolton (1764), Thomas Tofield (1764), Charles Carlisle (1765), and Lady Kildare (1765). Two letters by Charles Hamilton testify to the exchange of plants and seeds that Collinson participated in (1753), and letters by Collinson to Robert Moore, the Duke of Richmond, and the Earl of Bute, in which he discusses a variety of topics, reflects his interest in natural history generally (1762). The letters to Richmond and Bute are written on the same piece of paper, which also includes a diary entry by Collinson for June 1 and 2, 1764. In it, he refers to the Society of Friends, Doctor Fothergill, a visit to an art exhibit, and his experiments with the bark of the willow.

Of particular interest are a letter by John Bartram to Philip Miller [1759], a letter from Collinson to John Bartram (1763) and a personal letter from John Bartram to "Dear son Billy" Bartram (1771). Also included is a bill of sale of a "Negroe Woman named Jenny" between William Gabie and Thomas Robeson, and, on the same sheet, between Robeson and William Bartram, and between W. Bartram and his brother George Bartram (all dated 1772).

Also of note is a letter from Collinson to Lord Hyde, in which he mentions Benjamin Franklin and refers to the political situation in Pennsylvania (1764). Another reference to Franklin can be found in the letter from Daniel Solander who writes about his intention to accompany Franklin on an upcoming visit to Collinson (1767). A letter by Mr. Holland evidently asks Collinson to use his influence with Thomas Rouse to gain an appointment for the Lord's grandson (1768).

The collection also includes several pages from Collinson's diary or commonplace book, dated 1762, in which he refers primarily to his plants. However, this item also includes several entries that list notable events of 1709 and 1710, including the arrival of the Palatines ("Lived in Tents"), the plague, the "wrongful" execution of Charles Dean, and the knighting of Charles Wagner.

Digital objects note

This collection contains digital materials that are available in the APS Digital Library. Links to these materials are provided with context in the inventory of this finding aid. A general listing of digital objects may also be found here.

Collection Information

Physical description

48 items.

Provenance

Deposited by John Bartram Association, 04/1952. Additional items purchased from Sessler-Hamilton for $55.00 and accessioned, 09/02/1969 (1227ms).

Early American History Note

While the APS has a number of Collinson collections on microfilm, it primary source holdings contain only thirty-seven letters written to Peter Collinson. The majority of the letters discuss natural history. There is a letter written about the culture of bathing in Wales in the 1730s. There is also extended correspondence between Collinson and Lady Petre on the botanical gardens on the Petre's estate and a series of letters from Spanish officials in the Caribbean relaying information to Collinson. There is also notable amount of correspondence between Collinson and various nobility discussing horticultural issues.

The collection is listed as having a lot of Collinson-Bartram correspondence, but the majority of the collection involved correspondence from people other than Bartram to Collinson. Nonetheless, the collection offers insight on Peter Collinson's influence on horticulture and botany in the eighteenth century.

Indexing Terms


Genre(s)

  • Scientific Correspondence

Subject(s)

  • Gardening -- England.
  • Gardens -- England.
  • Horticulture -- England.
  • Horticulture -- United States.
  • Natural history
  • Plants, Cultivated.
  • Science and technology
  • Seed industry and trade -- England.
  • Seed industry and trade -- United States.


Detailed Inventory

Papers
  
Dale, Francis d.1733.
Letter to P[eter] Collinson
Jan. 20, 1731 

Extract of L. in Collinson's hand. On same sheet with letter from Peter Collinson to Lord Monfort, July 11, 1765.

Hanbury, John .
Letter to P[eter] Collinson
Aug. 13, 17328 1/2" x 6 1/2"

Scarborough, A.L.S. 4p. Contains note in Collinson's hand.

General physical description: 8 1/2" x 6 1/2"

Petre, Robert James Petre, Baron, 1713-1742.
Receipt to Sir John Webb
July 26, 173712 3/4" x 8"

D.S.: Petre, Anne Petre 1p.

General physical description: 12 3/4" x 8"

Costa, Lorenzo.
Bill to Lord Petre
Aug. 15, 1741 

D. 1p. On reverse is receipt from Costa to Lady Petre; May 16, 1743; payment received through hands of Peter Collinson. Enclosed with letter from Petre to Philip Miller; September 21, 1741.

Petre, Robert James Petre, Baron, 1713-1742.
Letter to Philip Miller
Sept. 21, 17417 1/2" x 5 1/2"

A.L.S. 1p. and add. In re bill of Lorenzo Costa, which is enclosed. Contains note from Philip Miller to [Peter Collinson].

General physical description: 7 1/2" x 5 1/2"

Sloane, Hans, Sir, 1660-1753.
Letter to Peter Collinson
March 21, 1741/429" x 7 1/4"

A.L.S. 1p. and add. In re shells.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/4"

Miller, Philip, 1691-1771.
Letter to [Peter Collinson]
1742 

ca.1742 A.L.S. 1p. On same sheet with letter from Petre to Miller; September 21, 1741.

Norfolk, Edward Howard, Duke of, 1686-1777.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
March 7, 1742/437 1/2" x 6"

A.L.S. 1p. and add., end. in PC's hand.

General physical description: 7 1/2" x 6"

Norfolk, Edward Howard, Duke of, 1686-1777.
Letter to Peter Collinson
June, 174312 1/4" x 7 3/4"

ca. A.L.S. 1p. and add., end. by PC

General physical description: 12 1/4" x 7 3/4"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
Jan. 10, 17437 1/4" x 6"

A.L.S. 2p. and add., end. in C's hand. Interesting seal.

General physical description: 7 1/4" x 6"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
April 12, 17437 1/4" x 6"

A.L.S. 3p. and add., end. by PC.

General physical description: 7 1/4" x 6"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
April 17, 17437 1/4" x 6"

A.L.S. 2p. and add.,end. by PC.

General physical description: 7 1/4" x 6"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
July 14, 17439" x 7 1/4"

Dagnams, A.L.S. 2p. and add. and end. by PC.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/4"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
Aug. 1, 174312" x 7"

Dagnams, A.L.S. 1p. and add.

General physical description: 12" x 7"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
Aug. 10, 17437" x 6"

Dagnams, A.L.S. 2p. and add., end. by PC.

General physical description: 7" x 6"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
Sept. 30, 17436 3/4" x 5 3/4"

Dagnams, A.L.S. 1p. and add.

General physical description: 6 3/4" x 5 3/4"

Petre, Anne Radcliffe.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
Oct. 27, 17437" x 5 3/4"

Dagnams, A.L.S. 1p. and add.

General physical description: 7" x 5 3/4"

Colden, Cadwallader, 1688-1776.
Letter to [Peter Collinson]
Feb.17, 1748? 

Portion of A.L. 2p. and end. by P.C. For date of letter see P. Collinson's probable reply, February 24, 1748 - Colden Papers, v.4, 103 (NYHSP)

Hamilton, Charles, 1691-1754.
Letter to [Peter Collinson ?]
Jan. 22, 17539 1/4" x 7 1/4"

Brook street, A.L.S. 1p.

General physical description: 9 1/4" x 7 1/4"

Hamilton, Charles, 1691-1754.
Letter to [Peter Collinson]
Oct. 28, 1753 

A.L.S. 1p., end. by PC.

Bartram, John, 1699-1777.
Letter to [Philip] Miller
Feb. 18, [1759]12 1/2" x 7 1/2"

A.Dr. of L. 2p. Contains also draft of a second letter dated February 1759.

General physical description: 12 1/2" x 7 1/2"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to Mr. Gordon
1761 

ca. A.L.S. 1p. On same sheet with letter from H. Trelawny to PC, July 9, 1761.

Trelawny, H, d.1762.
Letter to [Peter] Collinson, Butshead (?)
July 9, 17619" x 7 1/2"

A.L.S. 3p. P.4 contains letter from P. Collinson to Mr. Gordon.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/2"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
[Pages from diary or commonplace book]
Aug.7-10, 17629" x 7"

A.D. 4p.

General physical description: 9" x 7"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to Rob[er]t Moore
April 22, 17628" x 6 1/2"

London, A.L.S. 3p.

General physical description: 8" x 6 1/2"

Richmond and Lennox, Charles Lennox, Duke of, 1735-1806.
Letter to [Peter Collinson]
May 19, 17629" x 7 1/4"

Goodwood, A.L.S. 2p. Contains also: Draft of letter from Collinson to the Duke of Richmond, January 23, 1764; draft of letter from Collinson to

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/4"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to the Earl of Bute
Feb.14, 17639" x 7 1/4"

A.Dr. of L. 1p. On same sheet with letter from the Duke of Richmond to PC, May 19, 1762.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/4"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Diary
June 1-2, 17639" x 7 1/4"

A.D. 1p. On same sheet with letter from the Duke of Richmond to PC, May 19, 1762.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/4"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to John Bartram
April 7, 17638x6-1/2

London, A.L.S. 3p.and add. Concerning the peace and Pitt. Sale of seeds and shipment of seeds. Refers to Franklin.

General physical description: 8x6-1/2

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to the Duke of Richmond
Jan. 23, 1764 

A.Dr. of L.S. with initials. On same sheet with letter from the Duke of Richmond to Collinson, May 19, 1762.

Bolton (?), Thomas.
Letter to P[eter] Collinson, London
Sept. 4, 17649" x 7 1/2"

Warlay Clough, A.L.S. 3p. and add. Contains notes by P. Collinson.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/2"

Tofeild (?), Thomas.
Letter to Peter Collinson
Sept. 15, 17649" x 7"

Balby, A.L.S. 2p. and add. and end. and notes by PC.

General physical description: 9" x 7"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to Lord Hyde
Dec. 11, 17647 1/2" x 6 3/4"

A.Dr. of L.S. with initials 1p. Commotions caused by the Presbyterians in Pennsylvania resulting in defeat of Mr. Franklin in Assembly.

General physical description: 7 1/2" x 6 3/4"

Bowles, William, 1705-1780.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
Dec. 17, 17648 1/4" x 5 3/4"

Madrid, A.L.S: Guilermo Bowles. 3p. and add. Contains draft of Collinson's reply of February 4, 1766.

General physical description: 8 1/4" x 5 3/4"

Ponthiell (?), John de.
Letter to Peter Collinson
June 1, 17659 1/2" x 7 1/4"

Grenades, A.L.S. 3p. and add., end. by PC.

General physical description: 9 1/2" x 7 1/4"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to Lord Monfort (?)
July 11, 176511 1/4" x 7 1/4"

A.Dr. of L.S. 1p. Contains also an extract of a letter from Francis Dale to Collinson, January 20, 1731, in Collinson's hand.

General physical description: 11 1/4" x 7 1/4"

Carlisle, Charles.
Letter to [Peter] Collinson
Aug. 29, 17658" x 6"

Rose castle, A.L.S. 3p., end. by PC.

General physical description: 8" x 6"

Kildare, Lady.
Letter to [Peter] Collinson
Sept. 28, 17659 1/4" x 7"

A.L.S. 3p. Contains draft of Collinson's reply, October 26, 1765, on p.4.

General physical description: 9 1/4" x 7"

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to Lady Kildare
Oct. 26, 1765 

A.Dr. of L. 1p. On same sheet with letter from Lady Kildare to Collinson, September 28, 1765.

Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
Letter to [William Bowles]
Feb. 4, 1766 

A.Dr. of L. On same sheet with letter from Bowles to PC. December 17, 1764.

B C692.2. Collinson, Peter, 1694-1768.
An Account of the Introduction of American Seeds into Great Britain
1766Photocopy.

Location of originals: Original in British Museum.

General physical description: Photocopy.

Knowlton, Thomas, 1691-1781.
Letter to Peter Collinson, London
July 13,14,17, 17678" x 6 1/4"

A.L.S. 4p., add. Mentions Mr. [John ?] Bartram.

General physical description: 8" x 6 1/4"

Solander, Daniel Charles, 1733-1782.
Letter to [Peter Collinson]
July 15, 176712" x 7 1/4"

London, A.L.S. 2p. Mentions Dr. Franklin

General physical description: 12" x 7 1/4"

Holland, Henry Fox, Baron, 1705-1774.
Letter to Peter Collinson, Middlesex
June 11, 17689" x 7 1/4"

Holland house, A.L.S. 2p. and add. Seal Contains copy, in PC's hand, of a letter from Thos. Rous[e] to Peter Collinson, June 18, 1768.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/4"

Rouse, Thomas.
Letter to P[eter] C[ollinson]
June 18, 1768 

Hackney, Copy of L in PC's hand. On same sheet with letter from Ld. Holland to Peter Collinson, June 11, 1768.

Bartram, John, 1699-1777.
Letter to William Bartram
April 25, 17717 1/2" x 6"

A.L.S. 1p. and add.

General physical description: 7 1/2" x 6"

Gabie, William.
Bill of sale for a slave
1772 February 1 item(s)

Abstract: Bill of sale showing transfer of ownership of a "negro woman named Jenny."

North Carolina, D.S. 1p. On the reverse of this document, the ownership of Jenny is transferred from Robeson, to William Bartram; Wilmington, February 20, 1772; and in turn from Wm. Bartram to George Bartram; Phila., March 20, 1773.

Access digital object:
http://diglib.amphilsoc.org/fedora/repository/text:2422

Petre, Robert James Petre, Baron, 1713-1742.
Letter to [Peter Collinson]
undated9" x 7 1/2"

Wednesday. A.L.S. 1p.

General physical description: 9" x 7 1/2"