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Richard Spruce Collection

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The notebooks and diaries

Spruce kept detailed notes about the plants he collected. Although at first glance it seems that Spruce numbered his plants sequentially in the field, as do today's botanists, it is clear from our research into the notebooks that he numbered collections after he had returned to England. As a result, some numbers were used twice, and many specimens are without collecting numbers (s.n. - sin numero). There are no notebook entries, and thus minimal information, for these plants.

The notebooks are held in the Archives at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and have been transcribed and imaged. The information from the transcriptions is being stored using the same database as the specimen information. You can browse the transcriptions or search for a specific entry.

In total, there are 2874 individual collecting numbers in the two notebooks which cover Peru and Ecuador. All of these have now been transcribed and are available here.

We have transcribed the notebooks exactly as Spruce wrote them, complete with his own abbreviations and (sometimes cryptic) shorthand. He used the full width of two facing pages for each number, and often included sketches, especially of ferns.

Alongside Spruce's collection notes are a wealth of letters and diaries. He was a talented artist and sketched things along the way which interested him.

From Spruce's letters and diaries, his friend and fellow explorer of the Amazon Alfred Russel Wallace compiled the book of Spruce's travels - Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes, published in 1908. It is largely from Wallace's edited compilation that we have reconstructed Spruce's itinerary in Peru and Ecuador.


Double page notebook entry

Notebook page  0061

Spruce on the Amazon frontispiece


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Funded by Mellon foundation     In partnership with RBG Kew