Franz Carl Mertens (17641831)
HI Archives collection no. 54
Mertens, Franz Carl
Artist: Carl Mertens (FC’s Son)
Printer: C. Hullmandel
HI Archives portrait no. 1
Mertens was born on 3 April 1764 in Bielefeld and died in Bremen 19 June 1831. His father, Clamor Mertens, was the only son of a distinguished but impoverished noble family. Because there was no money to send Franz Carl to school, he was taught at home by his father, but his mother was determined that Franz Carl would attend classes to prepare him to enter a university. Through her efforts with various city officials, she was able to arrange that Franz Carl take classes with the son of an official. Once given the opportunity, Mertens’ intelligence and industriousness attracted the attention of individuals able to guide and assist him with the financing of his education. He studied theology and languages at the University of Halle and was offered a teaching position at Bremen Polytechnic College. His days were taken up with lessons and preparing class lectures, but he devoted every spare minute to his main interest: the study of botany. Through a friend he met Albrecht Wilhelm Roth (17571834), German physician and botanist at Oldenburg. Mertens and Roth went on collecting trips together, and Mertens described a number of algal species and illustrated all of the algae in the third volume of Roth’s Catalecta botanica (1806). Mertens traveled throughout Europe and Scandinavia visiting botanists and gardens. He exchanged letters and specimens with many notable natural scientists.
Scope and content note
In April 1962 the Mertens collection was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Roy A. Hunt and deposited in the Archives of the Hunt Botanical Library.
Two hundred sixty-three of Mertens’s letters to other scientists are now in the Hunt Collection. They are tipped into a bound volume and include letters from Carl Adolphe Agardh, J. B. G. M. Bory de Saint-Vincent, Augustin Pyramus de Candolle, Adelbert von Chamisso, Louis August Deschamps, Rene Louiche Defontaines, Ambrose M. F. J. Palisot de Beauvois, Alexander Postels, Dawson Turner, and many others.
Along with the letterbook, the collection includes: a personal notebook (cover title is Das Blaue Buch) belonging to Professor Mertens with handwritten notes in German on many topics including anecdotes, biographies, quotations, memoranda, and caricature sketches; an ink-wash drawing, signed by Alexander Postels, of the ship Corvette on its circumnavigation of the world in 1829; a sketchbook by Franz Carl Mertens depicting a botanical field trip from Bremen to Bassum, 25 July 1806, and including three separate caricatures Mertens made on the trip; a pen-and-ink sketch of Mertens’ home at Bremen drawn by his son Carl Heinrich Mertens (17961830); and a lithograph of Mertens made by his son Carl Heinrich in 1825 and printed by C. Hullmandel.
Two small volumes complete this collection:
Stachow, C. L. [ca.1840.] Professor Dr. Franz Carl Mertens, Vorstcher der Handelsschule in Bremen. 154 pp. [This German biography is a reprint of pages 239392 of a rare German work titled Biographische Skizzen verstoibner Bremischer Aerzte.] HI Library call no. LB M575m.
[An English translation of the above volume by Mertens’ great-granddaughters, Carmen Mertens and Thekla Mertens Widney. Los Angeles, 1960. 97 typescript pages.] HI Library call no. LB M575m 960.