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John Torrey Papers: Introduction



Drawing of John Torrey by Sir Daniel MacNee.
From the collection of Sir William Hooker,
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England.

The John Torrey Papers is the largest and most important collection of documents in the United States of pioneering American botanist John Torrey’s (1796-1873) correspondence, manuscripts, notes, and botanical illustrations. The physical collection resides in the Archives of the New York Botanical Garden.

John Torrey is considered one of the most important taxonomic botanists in the early development of scientific botany, horticulture, and agriculture in nineteenth century America. He corresponded with botanists and natural historians throughout America and Europe. His wide network of botanists and natural historians enabled Torrey to collect, describe, and classify plant specimens from around the world. While the correspondence contains important information on Torrey’s botanical work, the documents are also a valuable resource to scholars, students, and members of the public studying American history, including North American expeditions, westward expansion, and the evolution of American science in the nineteenth century.

In 2016, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and Archives of the New York Botanical Garden embarked on a project to make the John Torrey Papers available online through the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The project team preserved, digitized, and facilitated the transcription of 3.5 linear feet of the collection, which consists primarily of correspondence received by John Torrey. The transcription project was hosted on the software platform FromThePage, where online volunteers from around the world were able to access images of each page and transcribe them. As of June 2020, 99.7% of the Torrey correspondence had been transcribed and made available through BHL.



Click the button above to view the images and transcriptions in BHL. To access a transcription, click the title of the letter and then click "Show Text" in the top right corner. You may also use Advanced Search to search the full text of the collection.



The preservation, digitization, and transcription of the John Torrey Papers is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities, as a part of the Common Good initiative to make historical documents publicly available to promote the role the humanities and sciences have played in the history of the United States.

Support provided by:


                     Carnegie Corporation of New York