Farlow Reference Library of Cryptogamic Botany

PAPERS, c.1855-1881


Thomas Potts James was born in Radnor, PA on September 1, 1803. His ancestors were among the leaders of the American Revolution and framers of the Constitution, living in Pennsylvania before William Penn. Pottstown, PA is named after his family.

As a youth he studied botany both phanerogams and cryptogams - making the musci a specialty. He received his early education in Trenton, NJ and intended to enter Princeton but was prevented by circumstances from doing so.

For almost forty years he worked with his brother in the wholesale drug business and although he was not able to devote all his time to botany, he remained productive. At that time he was an instructor at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

During the Civil War he was a Union sympathizer and was a member of the National Guard. He married Isabella Batchelder in December 1851 and they moved to Brattle St., Cambridge in approximately 1851. They had four children.

James is known today as the author, with Leo Lesquereux, of the Manual of the Mosses of North America published in 1884, and the author or co-author of 75 names of musci. He was a member of the earliest circle of American bryologists, a group which included Lesquereux, Austin and Sullivant, all of whom were prolific correspondents.

James served as a link between the botanical centers of Philadelphia, PA and Cambridge, MA. He was an active member and librarian of the American Philosophical Society and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. While in Cambridge at Harvard, he had daily contact with Asa Gray. His working life spanned the period of government subsidized exploration of the continent and most of the early specimens were brought to Philadelphia. James' personal herbarium is at the Farlow. He died on February 22, 1882 at home following a stroke.


Scope & Content Note:
This collection consists mostly of correspondence particularly between James and Leo Lesquereux. Some of the major correspondents are: William Starling Sullivant, and Coe Finch Austin. There are also specimen notes for the Mosses of North America.


No record of the provenance of the James papers have surfaced. Most likely they were acquired by Sereno Watson to aid his work in completing the manual of mosses, and they probably simply remained at the Gray Herbarium.


Companion collection of James material is located in the Gray archives.


Container List:

Carton 1:

Book I - Labeled: James S. Lesquereux I 1857-1864

Bound notebook contains letters to James from Lesquereux and James' drafts of his own letters to Lesquereux. Letters date from March 1857 through July 1864. Approximately 96 letters - 1 letter per page.

Book II - Labeled: James Lesquereux II - 1864-1866

Bound notebook contains letters to James from Lesquereux and James' drafts of his own letters to Lesquereux. Letters date from June 1862 through December 1866. Approximately 88 letters - 1 letter per page.

Book III - Labeled: James Lesquereux III - 1867-1873

Bound notebook contains letters to James from Lesquereux and James' drafts of his own letters to Lesquereux. Letters date from January 1867 through August 1873. Book also contains 3 postcards from Lesquereux dated Nov. 1880, June 1881, and July 1881. Approximately 91 letters - 1 letter per page and 3 postcards on 1 page.

Folder 1 - Miscellaneous notes and lists.

Folder 2 - Small sketches and notes by James and Lesquereux for preparation of Mosses of North America.

Folder 3 - Correspondence between Coe Finch Austin and James. 1864-1867 (app. 67 letters)

Folder 4 - Letters to James form Lapham, Kays, Heall, Laning and Schimper. 1857-1878. (app. 16 letters)

Folder 5 - Correspondence between Oldberg and James. 1874-1876. (app. 6 letters)

Folder 6 - Lists of specimens from James' correspondents. 1873-1881 (see inventory list for details) (app. 27 lists)

Folder 7 - Specimen labels from the herbarium collections of Lapram, McMinn, Hayes, and Harrington. (101 labels)

Folder 8 - Specimen notes - remarks on Drummonds Musci Americani 1828 by William Wilson and Bruch and Schimper 1843 (1 list - 12 p.)

Folder 9 - Notes and labels of moss specimens (taken from two small boxes labeled Musci Germanici, Bryum Zieria) (app. 93 pieces)

Folder 10 - James and Lesquereux manuscript notes for North American Mosses. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. (app. 65 p.)

Folder 11 - James and Lesquereux manuscripts (subject Fungi) (12 p.)

Folder 12 - The Hepatic Mosses (5 p.)

Mosses from The Botany of the Voyage of HMS Herard, 1852-1857 (from W. Wilson) (in leather bound notebook)
List of mosses submitted to Lesquereux May 24, 1862(all in James' handwriting).

Folder 13 - Letters between James and Eugene A. Rau. 1873-1874. (2 letters)

Folder 14 - Specimen list. Cylindrothesium. (1 p.

Folder 15 - Manuscript. General description of a moss. No title. Begins, "A moss ... " (attributed to James by C. W. Dodge) (8 p.)

Folder 16 - Letters between James and Lesquereux. 1868, 1874-1882. (in 10 envelopes - 1 envelope per year) (app. 238 letters)

Folder 17 - List of James collection by Barbara Harris, December 1984. Austin/Sullivant material. (9 p.)

Carton 2:

Book 1 - Correspondence between Coe Finch Austin and William Starling Sullivant concerning Austin's new genus - sympoma. 1865-1866. (p. 36-43) (7 letters - 1 letter per page)

Lists of moss specimens. 1858-1881 - from various collectors. Lists (booklets) are various sizes and number of pages and are taped or glued into the notebook. They are sorted by place collected (not in chronological order). Names of some of the collectors are: Coe F. Austin, Brewer, Lesquereux, Hall, Sullivant, Macoun, Roy, Wilson, Hooker. Many are in fragile condition. (54 lists).

Book 2 - Letters and Postcards from Coe Finch Austin and James' drafts of his own letters to Austin. 1857-1879. (app. 120 letters)

Book 3 - Letters to James from collectors of moss specimens and James' drafts of his letters to them. 1865-1880. (app. 69 letters)

Book 4 - Letters to James from various correspondents and drafts of his letters to them. 1855-1879. (app. 93 letters)

Book 5 - This volume contains various notes and memoranda found in the James collection and List of European mosses or species sent to Europe. Also, various labels and marks found on different packages and boxes at the time the Sullivant, James and Gray collections of Mosses and Hepatics were arranged in 1902-1903. A fuller description of this book is found inside the front cover.


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