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John Torrey Papers: Transcribing the John Torrey Papers


Dr. John Torrey (1796-1873) corresponded with hundreds of scientists—botanists, geologists, chemists, and zoologists—in North America and across Europe. Torrey's correspondence contains important information about his botanical work and is a valuable resource for anyone studying American history, scientific expeditions and the evolution of American science. Until now, researchers could only view these letters by visiting the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and Archives in person.

John Torrey portrait and signature and letter from Henry Bolander

In 2016, the Library initiated a project called Digitizing and Transcribing the John Torrey Papers: Natural Science and Exploration in 19th Century America which aimed to vastly improve discovery of these letters. This grant-funded project preserved, digitized and facilitated transcription of the letters written to Dr. Torrey by over 350 correspondents, making them full-text searchable online in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

You can view the digitized and transcribed correspondence in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The Torrey Transcription project is now complete! Many thanks to the volunteers who helped us transcribe Dr. Torrey’s letters. In addition to honing their skills deciphering 19th century handwriting, volunteers were able to follow the history-making scientific expeditions of 19th century North America, get to know the colorful characters who collected plant specimens, and make some historical discoveries of their own!

The transcriptions were originally carried out using FromThePage software. Now that the project is complete, this platform is no longer available for editing the Torrey Transcriptions. If you'd like to suggest any corrections to the transcriptions, please email Althea Meer, Systems & Digital Librarian, at