Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stamp of the Day: Hammarby

Not far from Uppsala, a little to the southeast on the large flat plains of glacial clays deposited just a hudnred thousand to a couple of million years ago, is a farm on a little hill.  It is Hammarby, Carl von Linne (Linnaeus)'s18th century farm, where he lived when he work as a professor of medicine and botany in Uppsala.  In town he had his scientific garden, and out here (within riding or walking distance) he had his farm and wild plants.

There are a couple of buildings at Hammarby, most built of horizontal logs that are painted with the typical red iron oxide paint of Sweden ('falu rödfärg').  This is where he lived with his family, the famous scientist that was convinced that he was put on this Earth to catalogue all living species and put it into some kind of reasonable system. And so he did.  Plants, Animals, Fossils, Rocks... all got a Latin name, a binomial of a genus and species epithet.  Like 'Homo sapiens'.

This Swedish stamp from 50 years ago shows Linnaeus in his garden outside the main building.  If you walk up the creaky and narrow (and extremely worn) stairs to the second floor and then take a right, you end up in his bedroom.  All the walls in there are covered with botanical prints, used as wall paper.  He was surrounded by plants, and even while asleep or in midwinter.  Tropical trees, orchids, fleshy flowers from far-away places were pasted onto the walls with starchy wall paper glue.  I assume there was regular wall paper printed in the mid 1700's, maybe not?  It is a bit strange today to see these antique and extremely valuable prints from the 1700s pasted up on the walls, covering every surface, and now stained with water, insect droppings, and dust.  Some of the prints are colored, maybe by hand. 

Hammarby is a great place to visit, so go there next time you are close to Uppsala.  And then go to the Cathedral inside Uppsala ('Domkyrkan') where you can step (or dance) on Linnaeus' grave.  His gravestone is set in the floor.

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