Lewis David von Schweinitz Papers (PP)

Archives, The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
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This finding aid was produced in English.

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Collectors: Schweinitz, Lewis David von, 1780-1834.
Title: Lewis David von Schweinitz Papers (PP)
Dates: 1800-1833
Dates: bulk, 1818-1831
Quantity: 10.0 linear inches; 2 boxes
Call Phrase: Schweinitz (PP)

Biography of Lewis David von Schweinitz

Lewis David von Schweinitz (1780-1834) is commonly recognized as a founder of American mycology. Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 13 February 1780, his heritage was Silesian, and he was educated by the Moravian Brethren. In his eighteenth year he traveled to Germany with his family where he entered a theological seminary. Upon graduation he became a teacher in the Moravian academy of Niesky, Silesia and was ordained deacon in 1808. In 1812 he returned to the United States and assumed a position as a church administrator in Salem, North Carolina. His authority as a mycologist is based in part on the extensive herbarium of fungi and plants collected in North Carolina and in Pennsylvania where he finally settled.

Though his clerical vocation was his life’s work, von Schweinitz developed a parallel career in botany and mycology. He published seminal papers in these subjects and collaborated with John Torrey, Johannes Baptista von Albertini, and Prince Maximillian II of Weid, among many others. He collected fungi in the eastern states and exchanged specimens with American and European botanists. His Synopsis Fungorum Carolinae Superioris (1822) and Synopsis Fungorum in America Borealis (1832) are landmark studies in the history of mycology through which he was recognized as the foremost authority on cryptogamia of his time. Both William Farlow and William Trelease characterized von Schweinitz as ‘the first American mycologist.’

His work consisted of extensive catalogues and systematic descriptions of fungi, mosses, ferns, lichens, and flowering plants, published in The American Journal of Science, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society , and other notable scientific journals of the time. In his 1832 Synopsis alone he described over 3000 species of fungi, more than half of which were species new to science. He was also an accomplished illustrator and created watercolor prints and drawings of botanical subjects that supplemented his descriptive work. Lewis David von Schweinitz died in 1834 with an unfinished work in progress. His personal herbarium of nearly 23,000 specimens was bequeathed to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Scope and Content

The Lewis David von Schweinitz collection consists of manuscripts of synoptic lists, catalogues, journal records, and indices of flowering plants, mosses, ferns, fungi, and lichens from 1800 to 1833 with emphasis the years Schweinitz lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (after 1821). The records also include information on the collections and herbaria of plant collectors other than Schweinitz. There is one item of correspondence. There is also a (test) microfilm record of part of the contents of Folder 1.


The collection is organized into two series:
Series 1: Manuscripts. 1800-1833. Arranged by subject.
Series 2: Correspondence. 1833.


Access restrictions

This collection is open for research with permission from Mertz Library staff.


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be submitted in writing to the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Baldwin, William, 1779-1819 -- Herbarium.
Fungi -- Classification.
Fungi -- North America.
Mycology -- United States -- History.
New York Botanical Garden Archives.
Plants -- North Carolina -- Salem.
Plants -- Ohio.
Plants -- Pennsylvania -- Bethlehem.
Plants -- Pennsylvania -- Nazareth.
Schweinitz, Lewis David von 1780-1834 -- Archives.
Schweinitz, Lewis David von 1780-1834 -- Herbarium.

Related Material

New York Botanical Garden

PP--William Baldwin Papers

PP--John Torrey Papers

One (test) microfilm reel of a portion of the contents of Folder #1 (see above, page 3)

American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA

Papers of Lewis David von Schweinitz

Gray Herbarium & Arnold Arboretum Combined Libraries, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Index of Plants, Lewis David von Schweinitz Herbarium

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Lewis David von Schweinitz Papers (PP), Archives, The New York Botanical Garden.

Acquisition Information

This collection was transferred to the New York Botanical Garden Archives

Processing Information

Originally processed by David Rose, Archives Assistant, March 1999 with grant funding from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 23141-98) and the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation. Converted to EAD in August 2006 by Kathleene Konkle under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH-PA 50678-04).

Container List


Series 1. Manuscripts.

Scope and Content:

There are 19 numbered file folders containing manuscripts written in Latin, except for certain remarks in English. One of the manuscripts is a bound journal organized chronologically from 1882. The manuscripts fall into two general categories. First, there are numbered specimen lists, titled and untitled, some with short descriptive remarks. The lists record additions to his personal herbarium, collection lists of field trips, and flora lists of other collectors. Some include an index. There are comparative lists of flora from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Salem, North Carolina, and lists of plants relating to his collaboration and correspondence with John Torrey.

Second are synoptic studies and systematic classifications by family, genus, and species, some of which record species discovered and identified by von Schweinitz. See, for example, Flora Synoptica Mundi (folder 3) and Tentamen Synopseos Plantarum Cryptogamarum in America Boreali (folder 4). Collection lists of other botanists include William Baldwin, William Bartram, William Cooper, Elias Fries, Andre Michaux, Kurt Sprengel, and Nathaniel Wallich.

Folder Title Date
1.1 Botanical Journal; North Carolina, & Ohio, Pennsylvania Catalogues ca. 1800-1833
1.2 Schweinitz Herbarium, et al ca. 1800-1833
1.3 Flora Synoptica Mundi, et al ca. 1800-1833
1.4 Cryptogamia ca. 1800-1833
1.5 Flora Americanae Borealis, et al ca. 1800-1833
1.6 Lichenography; Index to William Baldwin’s Herbarium ca. 1800-1833
1.7 Assorted Catalogues ca. 1800-1833
2.1 Plantae Bonplandiae ca. 1800-1833
2.2 Herbarium Lichen Catalogues ca. 1800-1833
2.3 Botanical Observations, et al ca. 1800-1833
2.4 Catalogues of plants, mosses, fungi, lichens ca. 1800-1833
2.5 Botanical Journal commenced at Bethlehem. Dec 20th, 1822
2.6 Flora Americae Australis du Sprengel ca. 1800-1833
2.7 Monographiae Dufour 1818
2.8 Phanerogam Herbarium Index ca. 1800-1833
2.9 Obserationes in Mycologiam Carolinensem ca. 1800-1833
2.10 Synopsis Cryptogamiae Americae Borealis ca. 1800-1833
2.11 Synopsis Fungorum ca. 1800-1833

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Series 2. Correspondence.

Scope and Content:

There is one letter, dated 22 June 1833, to Jacob Luchenbach, regarding the lease of a lot of property in Bethelehem, Pennsylvania.

Folder Title Date
2.12 Correspondence 1833

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