Tradescant, John

, a contributor to the study of natural history in this country in the seventeenth century, was by birth a Dutchman, as we are informed by Anthony Wood. On what occasion, and at what period he came into England, is not precisely ascertained, but it may be supposed to have been about the end of queen Elizabeth’s reign, or the beginning of that of James I. as Hollar’s print of him, engraved in 1656, represents him as a person very far advanced in years. He is said to have been for a considerable time in the service of lord treasurer Salisbury and lord Wooton. He travelled several years, and into various parts of Europe; as far eastward as into Russia. In 1620 he was in a fleet that was sent against the Algerines; and mention is made of his collecting plants in Barbary, and in the isles of the Mediterranean. He is said to have brought the trifolium stellatum of Linnseus from the isle of Fermentera; and his name frequently occurs in the second edition of Gerard, by Johnson in Parkinson’s “Theatre of Plants,” and in his “Garden of Flowers,” printed in 1656. But Dr. Pulteney conjectures that Tradescant was not resident in England in the time of Gerard himself, or known to him.

He appears, however, to have been established in England, and his garden founded at Lambeth; and about 1629 he obtained the title of gardener to Charles I. Tradescant was a man of extraordinary curiosity, and the first in this country who made any considerable collection of the subjects of natural history. He had a son of the same name, who took a voyage to Virginia, whence he returned with many new plants, They were the means of introducing a | variety of curious species into this kingdom, several of which bore their name. Tradescant’s spiderwort, Tradescant’s aster, are well known to this day; and Linnæus has immortalized them among the botanists by making a new genus, under their name, of the spidcrworfa which had been before called ephemeron. His museum, called “Tradescant’s Ark,” attracted the curiosity of the age, and was much frequented by the great, by whose means it was also considerably enlarged, as appears by the list of his benefactors, printed at the end of his “Museum Tradescantianum;” among whom, after the names of the king and queen, are found those of many of the first nobility, the duke and duchess of Buckingham, archbishop Laud, the earls of Salisbury and Carlisle, &c. &c.

This small 12mo volume the author entitled “Museum Tradescantianum, or a collection of rarities, preserved at South Lambeth, near London, by John Tradescant,1656, dedicated to the college of physicians. It contains lists of his birds, quadrupeds, fish, shells, insects, minerals, fruits, artificial and miscellaneous curiosities, war instruments, habits, utensils, coins, and medals. These are followed by a catalogue, in English and Latin, of the plants of his garden, and a list of his benefactors. The reader may see a curious account of the remains of this garden, drawn up in 1749, by the late sir William Watson, and printed in the 46th volume of the Philosophical Transactions, and many other particulars in our authorities. Prefixed to the “Museum Tradescantianum” were the prints of both father and son, which, from the circumstance of being engraved by Hollar, has unfortunately rendered the book well known to the collectors of prints, by whom most of the copies have been plundered of the impressions.

In what year the elder Tradescant died is uncertain, though it seems to have happened most probably in 1652. The son inherited the museum, and bequeathed it by a deed of gift to Mr. Ashmole, who lodged in Tradescant’s house. (See Ashmole.) It afterwards becoming part of the Ashmolean museum, the name of Tradescant was sunk. John, the son, died in 1662, and was buried April 25 of that year. Besides the prints prefixed to the “Museum Tradescantianum,” there are several portraits of the Tradescant family in the Ashmolean Museum, both male and female, esteemed good; but there are no dates to the pictures, nor any painter’s name or mark. John’s widow | erected a monument to the family in Lambeth church-yard, in 1662, which was much injured by time; but two fine drawings of it, happily preserved in the Pepysian library, came in aid of the mutilated parts, and in 1773 it was repaired by a public subscription. 1


Pulteney’s Sketches. Appendix to the “History and Antiquities of Lambetb.” Ashmole’s Diary.