The System of Nature – Linnaeus at the National Library

Rare and beautiful botanical pictures and books, many on show for the first time, are among the highlights of a display about Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus which opens at the National Library of Australia today.

The System of Nature: Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) celebrates the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linnaeus, arguably the most influential natural scientist of the 18th century. Linnaeus established systems of biological classification that are still followed today.

Linnaeus has close links with Australia through both Joseph Banks, a key supporter of his ideas, and Linnaean ‘apostle’ Daniel Solander. Both men were on board the Endeavour (1768–1771) on what was probably the first modern plant-collecting expedition.

Among the magnificent watercolours, portraits, prints and manuscripts on display are rare images of Australian plants from the National Library’s Pictures Collection, including an engraving of a waratah from 1793 and watercolours of banksias from the 1840s.

Also on show are two rare books written by Linnaeus, dated 1739 and 1749. These books, held in the Library’s collection, have never been on public display before.

‘Australia was the world’s first Linnaean nation. Except for some plant specimens collected in the late 17th century, the flora and fauna of Australia have otherwise been classified according to the principles established by Linnaeus,’ the display’s curator, Martin Terry, of the National Library, said.

‘This exhibition celebrates the achievements of the Swede from Uppsala University who invented the way the natural world is described. These glorious and educational pictures bring Linnaeus’s ideas to life and give visitors an insight into the way in which this man modernised the classification of the world of nature.’

Exhibition Details

The System of Nature: Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), 19 October 2007 – 6 April 2008, Visitor Centre. Open daily, Monday to Thursday 9 am – 9 pm; Friday to Sunday and public holidays 9 am – 5 pm. Free.

High-resolution images are available for download at http://www.nla.gov.au/media/

Media contacts: Yvonne Kennedy, Tel: 02 6262 1353; 0411 753 891; ykennedy@nla.gov.au
Ellen Peterson, Tel: 02 6262 1571; epeterson@nla.gov.au