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Job Bicknell Ellis (1829-1905)

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1.7 linear feet (4 boxes)


Job Bicknell Ellis (1829-1905) was an American mycologist best known for his work as a collector and classifier of fungi, primarily pyrenomycetes. Ellis was born in Potsdam, New York on January 21, 1829. He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York (1849) and began an erratic career as a classics teacher and farmer in New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Having no formal training as a botanist or mycologist, he progressively took up mycological fieldwork and dedicated his life to the collection and exchange of dried specimens (exsiccati), creating reference collections sold in sets of one hundred. The most important of these so-called "centuries" of specimens are Fungi Nova-Caesareenses [sic] (Fungi of New Jersey) (1878) and the North American Fungi, issued in series from 1878 to 1898.

In 1856, Ellis married Arvilla J. Bacon, who became his lifelong assistant and collaborator in assembling duplicate sets of exsiccati. Based in Newfield, New Jersey, Ellis maintained a voluminous correspondence with American and European mycologists, a virtual "Who's Who" of 19th century mycology. In 1880 Ellis began to receive financial support from Benjamin Matlock Everhart, a wealthy merchant of Westchester, Pennsylvania. Together they co-authored North American Pyrenomycetes (1892). With William A. Kellerman, Ellis and Everhart founded the Journal of Mycology (1895), a forerunner to Mycologia. Toward the end of his life (1896), Ellis sold his collection of over 100,000 specimens to The New York Botanical Garden for its Cryptogamic Herbarium. Ellis published over 500 scientific articles. He died December 30,  1905 in Newfield.


The Job Bicknell Ellis collection consists of correspondence, research papers, catalogues, a hand-sewn pouch of loose notes, and artwork.  The artwork includes two volumes of watercolor illustrations, as well as pen and ink and pencil sketches, entitled Figures of North American Fungi, in slip-cased covers. Most of the material relates to the later part of his career (ca. 1880) in collecting and identifying fungi, with representative correspondence from a broad range of mycologists and botanists on specimen exchange and identification.


Series 1: Correspondence
Series 2: Research Papers
Series 3: Artwork

Series 1    Correspondence, 1855-1904
                  0.6 lin. ft. Arranged alphabetically.

This series contains letters from a wide range of mycologists, primarily on specimen exchange and identification. In many cases, the quantity of correspondence is quite small, often a single letter. Notable are letters from George Washington Carver, Mordecai Cubitt Cooke, William Farlow, Asa Gray, H. W. Harkness, Auguste B. Langlois, Charles McIlvaine, Charles Horton Peck, Henry Ravenel, Pier A. Saccardo, and William Trelease. The letters of Benjamin Matlock Everhart is the largest single correspondence, numbering over 100 items.

Series 2    Research Papers, 1877-1896
                  0.7 lin. ft. Arranged by subject.

There are 5 files of mycological catalogues and descriptive notes, including a note on pyrenomycetes by Narcisse-Theophile Patouillard. The cover (boards) of Ellis' Fungi Nova-Caesareenses (1877) is included as an incidental item. There is an original hand-sewn pouch of loose notes on numbered specimens of fungi (some with pencil sketches and/or attached spore prints) and a separate file of notes, Agaricini. Each is organized alphabetically by genus.

Series 3    Artwork, 1880-82; 1888
                  0.4 lin. ft. Arranged by genus.

There are 2 slipcased boxes (volumes) entitled Figures of North American Fungi. Volume I contains 149 watercolor illustrations of fleshy fungi, dated variously 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1884, based on specimens found in New Jersey and New York. The plates, separated by file tabs, are as follows: Agarics (95), Gasteromycetes (7), Hydnum (7), Russula (3), Polyporus (16), and Boletus (21). All are stamped "B.B." and "M.B." on reverse and have watermark initials on the front. One polypore illustration is signed "Charles H. Peck, Albany, State Museum of Natural History, 21 Dec 1880." Volume II contains 26 ink sketches of microscopic structures and ascocarps of various ascomycetes, all identified on reverse as #9225.


Farlow Reference Library, Harvard University

Papers of William Gibson Farlow, 1844-1919

Collection of Botanists Papers, 1855-1946

Processed May 1999 by David Rose under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) PA-23141-98 and a grant from the Harriet Ford Dickenson Foundation.

For more information and a complete description contact:
Susan Fraser, NYBG Archivist
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126
(718) 817-8879

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