Voyages and travels in the Levant in the years 1749, 50, 51, 52: containing observations in natural history, physick, agriculture, and commerce, particularly on the Holy Land, and the natural history of the Scriptures / written originally in the Swedish language by Frederick Hasselquist, published by Charles Linnaeus, 1766.
I went on board a small French vessel, in which I sailed to Cyprus.
Fredrik Hasselquist was a Swedish naturalist and scientific explorer born at Törnevalla, Sweden in 1722, to priest Magnus Hasselquist. Orphaned at a young age he was raised by his uncle. He attended the University of Uppsala and his preference for Physics and Natural History quickly brought him under the mentorship of Carl Linnaeus and joined his group of Apostles. The apostles undertook botanical research trips around the world and helped document what they saw.
Hasselquist chose to explore the flora and fauna and in particular, to document and learn about biblical plants and animals in the underexplored Palestine, after Carl Linnaeus suggestion and regret of the lack of information regarding the natural history of the Levant. Having obtain support by several academic scholarships together with funds from various institutions and private persons, he set off for his trip towards the end of 1749 and visited parts of Asia Minor, Egypt, Palestine and Cyprus, compiling large natural history collections along the way.
Hasselquist visited Cyprus in May 1751 while preparing for the continuation of his trip in the Levant and had no intention of investigating the flora of the island since it was too late in season. I had no notion of travelling through the island, for which this season of the year is not the best. Despite mistakenly thinking that the island had not much to offer regarding his interests: […] The country affords little extraordinary botany, he documented some of the flora: Myrtle, Pine, Oriental Cistus Ladanifera, and Arbutus Andrachne, grew altogether in the woods, with the Oleander, which was now in blossom. I have never found such quantities of Aloe vera, as I saw on the ramparts of this fort., and was amazed at Stavrovouni: I scarcely believed myself in Cyprus, everything was so different on this mountain, […] This is the most pleasant place in Cyprus.
During his short visit, Hasselquist encountered interesting rock formations and natural mineral wealth in the surrounding valleys and cities. […] The mountain consists of a rusty limestone, saturated with vitriol, […] In many places the craggy mountain afforded lead and copper ore, and a quantity of small mountain crystals.
Furthermore, he made detailed remarks on the architecture of the buildings in the villages he passed by. Of particular historical significance though, is his visit to Famagusta. […] The town of Famagusta is now in a worse condition than the fort. All the houses built by the Venetians, are either entirely demolished or uninhabitable.
Sadly Hasselquist, never returned back to Sweden but he made sure that his collections reached home in safety, and five years after his death his notes were published by Linnaeus, who upon a visit he paid to his student’s treasures at the Queen’s islet for the first time, he wrote: The collections of dried plants from Natolia, Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus, &c. all the Stones and forts of earth from so many remarkable palaces in Egypt and the Holy Land; the many rare Insects, the extensive collections of Oriental Drugs, Arabian Manuscripts, Egyptian Mummies, &c. could not but excite the admiration of the beholder.
Hasselquist’s Voyages and travels in the Levant in the years 1749, 50, 51, 52 offer remarkable knowledge into the experiences of the bold researchers of the 1700s, and covers a fascinating range of topics and interests, reflecting the broad scope of enquiry at the time.
Visit us here in the Research Centre to enjoy an 18th century tour through Hasselquist’s Voyages.
The Book Of The Month series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).