Autograph letter signed to John Jardine

Publisher Information: London: 1842.

Fitton, William Henry (1780-1861). Autograph letter signed to John Jardine. 4pp. London, 53 Upper Harley Street, 26 January 1842. 183 x 116 mm. A few faint spots but fine otherwise.

From the geologist William Henry Fitton, best known for his contributions to stratigraphy as embodied in his classic “On some of the strata between the chalk and the Oxford oolite (e.g., corallian) in the south-east of England” (Trans. Geol. Soc., 1836). Fitton served as president of the Geological Society from 1827 to 1829, and contributed numerous essays and reviews on geological science to the Edinburgh Review. In the present letter Fitton discussed Jardine’s present to him of an engraving of Cidaris (sea urchins) and mentioned a possible meeting with Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), the famous German naturalist and explorer, who was then in England:

I have to apologize for not sooner acknowledging your notes, & thanking you for your acceptable present of your engraving of Cidaris, which is very interesting—and I have no doubt a faithful portrait: Mr. Sowerby having the power of very faithful representation. One of my reasons for delaying a reply to your second note (of the 20th) was the possibility that I might have seen the Baron von Humboldt, whom it is not unlikely that I may meet during his stay in England. But as I am not sure of this, I must answer your enquiry by saying that I fear that the K. of Prussia’s time & hands are too much occupied with public affairs, to admit of his studying natural history;—nor should I know how to present an impression of your plate to him. But if you wish to put half a dozen copies, at the […] of Baron von Humboldt, or of Baron von Buch (who also resides at Berlin) & […] direct them to the former at the Prussian Embassy—Carlton Terrace, I can have no doubt that Mr. von Humboldt will receive them & take them to Berlin. Or if you wish have your copies left at the Geological Society, & the packet addressed, outside, I can have them conveyed for you to the Prussian minister’s (M. Bunsen’s) hands at Carlton Terrace.

Humboldt was a close friend of Prussia’s King Frederick Wilhelm IV, whom he served as an advisor and diplomat; it is clear from Fitton’s letter that Jardine was attempting to send a copy of his engraving to the King via Humboldt. “Mr. Sowerby” most likely refers to British naturalist, illustrator and conchologist George Brettingham Sowerby (1788-1854), author of several illustrated works on molluscs and a co-author of The Mineral Conchology of Great Britain; the reference could also be to his brother, James de Carle Sowerby (1787-1871), who was also a scientific illustrator. The second paragraph of Fitton’s letter mentions German geologist and paleontologist Christian Leopold von Buch (1774-1853), one of the foremost contributors to geology in the first half of the 19th century, best known for scientifically defining the Jurassic system. We have not been able to identify John Jardine, Fitton’s correspondent; he may have been a relative of Scottish naturalist William Jardine (1800-1874), editor of The Naturalist’s Library (1833-43).

Book Id: 42651

Price: $500.00

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