On a manuscript letter by Carl Friedr. Phil. von Martius (1864) (Ribeiro 2014)

por Eduardo R. Ribeiro

The two volumes of Spix & Martius' Travels in Brazil, in the years 1817-1820 (1824) belonging to the Library of Brown University and digitized by the Internet Archive include a manuscript letter (1864) from botanist and explorer Carl Friedr. Phil. von Martius (1794-1868) to Clements Markham. The item is part of Brown's Church Collection, which comprises 3,500 volumes gathered by George Earl Church.

The letter offers a glimpse into Martius' multifaceted interests, which included history, ethnology, and linguistics. As he mentions in the letter, he had then just published his major contribution to South American linguistics, the Glossaria Linguarum Brasiliensium (1863), the second volume of his Beiträge zur Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika’s zumal Brasiliens. The letter also mentions the delay in the publication of the first volume, on ethnology,

because I am distracted by other occupations, and, for saying the truth, by the years, which cool the fervency of younger action.

The first volume would only come to light in 1867, including a superb ethnolinguistic map, and accompanied by a reprint of the first volume (yes, volume 2 came years before volume 1!). Martius would pass away the following year.

Church, to whom the letter-within-a-book would eventually belong, was a close associate of Markham, and both undertook exploration trips to South America. Although the letter does not identify the addressee, there’s no doubt as to whom it was sent to: Markham was secretary of the Royal Geographical Society between 1863 and 1888, an expert on the cinchona plant, and the author of the book to which Martius refers, Travels in Peru and India while superintending the collection of chinchona plants and seeds in South America, and their introduction into India (1862).

Publicado originalmente no Tumblr da Biblioteca Digital Curt Nimuendajú, em 7/março/2014.

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