Together with the library of the Nuremberg city physician and natural scientist Christoph Jacob Trew (1695-1769), his collection of letters came to Erlangen in 1818. It contains about 19,000 letters and draft letters from 2,200 scholars of the 16th to 18th centuries. These include letters by the well-known botanists Leonhard Fuchs, Conrad Gesner, Carolus Clusius, Carl von Linné, the zoologists Ulysses Aldrovandi and Maria Sybilla Merian, the physicians Albrecht von Haller and Hermann Boerhaave as well as the theologians and philologists Philipp Melanchthon and Johannes Calvin. The oldest letter was written by the reformer Huldrych Zwingli in 1524. The most recent letter, a letter from the English physician John Hill, was not sent until 1770, one year after Trew’s death.
Trew had bought individual letters or entire bundles of long deceased scientists and scholars for his collection or came into possession of important pieces by exchange or donation. Letters to and from Trew form the minor part of his collection. Like many scientists of his time, he maintained an extensive exchange of letters with colleagues throughout Europe. Further letters were sent to booksellers and collectors as well as to official bodies in Franconia. The well-known physician also archived the letters of sick people seeking advice.
The Trew letter collection is regarded as one of the most important collections of medical and scientific letters of the 18th century in the German-speaking world. It was first indexed by a printed catalogue in 1940. In the meantime, all letters have been digitized and published online.
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