Marginalia in the ‘bible’ of pollen analysis: Gunnar Erdtman and the annotations of a displeased ‘evangelist’

Kevin J. Edwards*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper examines the annotations within a copy of the first edition of the ‘bible’ of palynology – Text-book of Modern Pollen Analysis – by the Norwegian botanist Knut Fægri and his co-author, the Danish botanist Johannes Iversen, published in 1950. The marginalia are the work of Swedish geobotanist Gunnar Erdtman, made in his personal library copy of 'Fægri & Iversen'. All three palynologists were amongst the most prominent figures in the history of the field. Erdtman himself had earlier (1943) produced An Introduction to Pollen Analysis and very much saw himself as the master of the discipline. He was probably unaware that his comments would be open to scrutiny and this paper seeks to assess his observations of two would-be usurpers of his palynological crown. Apart from extensive notes, underlinings, drawings, and textual marks, he queried or contradicted factual statements and, pedantically, English usage and reference order. His use of such interaction is to be found elsewhere within his archives, although not to the same extent as seen in Fægri and Iversen's classic tome. As well as an addition to the critical apparatus available for the appraisal of an academic's work, the marginalia allow an insight into the thinking of a pioneer scientist, and they reveal a spontaneity and a persona which might otherwise be hidden.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104538
Number of pages14
JournalReview of Palaeobotany and Palynology
Early online date22 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
It is a pleasure to thank Pia Östensson of the Palynology Laboratory, Naturhistoriska riksmuseet, Stockholm and Maria Asp, Center for History of Science, Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien, Stockholm for assistance in accessing the respective Gunnar Erdtman archives and facilitating permission to reproduce material. Ejnar Munksgaard Forlag, publisher of Text-book of Modern Pollen Analysis, had various owners after the death of its founder in 1948 and was eventually sold to Blackwell Science (Oxford) in 1964 before incorporation into Wiley in 2007; it has not proved possible to determine copyright ownership of the original Munksgaard volume and attempted communication with Wiley was unanswered. This also applies to Pollen et Spores which ceased publication in 1989 and had been published by Éditions du Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris. For assistance with linguistic issues, I am grateful to Pia Östensson, Agneta Ekbom and Maria Asp (Stockholm), Marie Janson (Cambridge), the late Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide (Bergen) and Natascha Mehler (Tübingen). It was a pleasure to discuss Gunnar Erdtman with Elisabeth Grafström (Stockholm). Jim Secord (Cambridge) is thanked for discussions on the subject of marginalia.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Gunnar Erdtman
  • Johannes Iversen
  • Knut Fægri
  • Lennart von Post
  • Marginalia
  • Pollen analysis


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