- Textilia Linnaeana: Global 18th Century Textile Traditions & Trade by Viveka Hansen
Over more than two centuries, the experiences of Cook’s officers, surgeons, naturalists, artists, able-bodied sailors, and Pacific Islander inter-locutors have been minutely scrutinized. Today, a radically unexpected finding is required to make much of a stir in the sails of the relevant discourses. Or so I would have thought. Viveka Hansen’s Textilia Linnaeana: Global 18th Century Textile Traditions & Trade demonstrates that scholars engaged in the fundamental work of their particular disciplines can have subtle yet notable contributions for colleagues working in distant fields. Hansen, an expert in eighteenth-century textiles, makes a finely woven contribution to the history of science with insights at the intersection of emerging eighteenth-century botanical science, commerce, and material culture. Her work also has implications for the study of Oceania’s eighteenth-century age-of-encounter, the roots of globalization in the region, the sometimes shadowy economic motivations for Pacific navigation, and a more pluralistic vision of the place of “national projects” in European Pacific voyaging.
Textilia Linnaeana is the latest volume in the Mundus Linnæi Series devoted to republishing the transformative works of the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, generally known for his contributions to taxonomic conventions and the study of sexual reproduction among plants. Twenty richly hued chapters illuminate the place of textiles in the eighteenth century across hundreds of cultures around the globe, as Hansen closely scrutinizes the travels, experiences, field science, and findings of Linnaeus’s seventeen most favored students, whom he baptized his “Apostles.” These lieutenants, some of whom became scientific giants in their own right, were strategically deployed by Linnaeus for [End Page 598] undertaking basic research, gathering botanical and zoological specimens around the globe, publicizing Linnaeus’s theoretical and methodological work, and advocating for his place in the froth of the Enlightenment’s refashioning of botanical science as a formal endeavor. The apostles included two of Cook’s best-known companions in the first and second navigations, Daniel Solander and Anders Sparrman. That these two naturalists were trained by Linnaeus has not been missed by prior commentators. However, this relationship has generally been treated as a colorful fact, little more than a delightful bit of trivia, and it may have seemed unimportant to those less interested in the history of botany or the history of science more generally. Hansen’s volume suggests a different perspective on the role of these early scientists.
Daniel Solander (1733–1782) was born at Piteå, on the Gulf of Bothnia, attended Uppsala University, and studied natural history under Linnaeus, who chose him to communicate the Systema Naturae, published in 1735, to the emerging Royal Society and the community of British naturalists in London. Solander became an employee of the British Museum and worked from 1763 to catalog its natural history collections. At some point, he became friendly with Joseph Banks, despite their differences in social status. Under Banks’s patronage, Solander was appointed to the suite of naturalists aboard the Endeavor on Cook’s first navigation in 1768–1771. Solander died young at age forty-nine. His immensely productive life was devoted to the primary work of cataloging the tens of thousands of new floral and faunal species gathered during Cook’s first voyage for the British Museum, presenting emerging work to the Royal Society, and supporting Banks’s ongoing scientific endeavors, including a late period of fieldwork in Iceland. However, Solander published no primary account whatsoever of his Pacific experiences.
Andreas Sparrman (1748–1820) was born in Tensta, in Sweden’s Uppland, and enrolled at Uppsala as a precocious nine-year-old. Sparrman studied medicine and natural history under Linnaeus and was deployed to South Africa for the empirical incorporation of that bioregion into the Linnaean project. There, in 1772, Sparrman met Johann Reinhold and Georg Forster before Cook’s departure from the Cape and was invited to join them on the Resolution for the remainder...