Linnaeus and Hortus Cliffortianus

Clifford commissioned Linnaeus to create the Hortus Cloffortianus, a catalogue of the plants in his garden and herbarium.

Hortus Cliffortianus

Introduction page to the Hortus Cliffortianus.

In 1736, on a visit to the house of the botanist Johannes Burman (1706-1779), Clifford was introduced to an up-and-coming young Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus, who was living and working there. Linnaeus, who was to become one of the most noted natural historians of all time, later visited Clifford's garden and impressed him with his botanical knowledge.

Dream job

Clifford was most keen to employ Linnaeus at the Hartekamp and, with the inducement of a volume of Sir Hans Sloane's 'Natural History of Jamaica', persuaded Burman to let Linnaeus go and join him as his physician and horticulturist. Clifford had a tendency to hypochondria and was no doubt pleased to have a physician on his doorstep. 

So, in 1735 Linnaeus started his 'dream job' of supervising the hothouses and naming specimens and classifying them according to his own system. During his stay he was to produce an important botanical work which is of value to taxonomists and historians to this day, the Hortus Cliffortianus, in which he described many new species from living and dried specimens in Clifford's possession.

Hortus Cliffortianus

The baroque frontispiece to the Hortus Cliffortianus.

Symbolic book

The Hortus Cliffortianus contains a number of illustrations by Jan Wandelaar (1690-1759). Its symbolism, including a young Apollo with Linnaeus' features, casting aside the shroud of darkness (ignorance), has been discussed by Callmer & Gertz (1954) and summarised by Stearn (1957: 46-47) - see Bibliography.

Early classification

Linnaeus arranged the plants according to his own sexual system, classifying them into groups based on the numbers and form of their male and female parts.

Each species was allocated to a genus, and given a short phrase-name in Latin, describing the features which served to distinguish one species from another. Linnaeus also included synonyms of earlier authors, distributional information, and sometimes a short description.

Perfecting the system

The significance of these entries lies in the fact that when Linnaeus, 15 years later, introduced the consistent use of binomial nomenclature in his Species Plantarum (1753), he took many of his species concepts direct from the accounts in this work.

Consequently, many of his binomial names are based on the specimens contained in the Clifford herbarium, and it contains a great many type specimens for Linnaean names.