Turner, Dawson, 1775-1858

Alternative names
Birth 1775-10-18
Death 1858-06-21

Biographical notes:

English collector and antiquary.

From the description of Autograph letters signed (2) : Yarmouth, to Mr. Kerrich and an unidentified recipient, 1818 Sept. 16 and 1846 Jan. 20. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270872383

English physician and botanist.

From the description of Papers, 1800-1820. (Duke University). WorldCat record id: 35527757

English botanist and antiquary.

From the description of Autograph letters signed (2) : Yarmouth, 1841 Aug. 28 and 1847 Mar. 13. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270573556

Dawson Turner was a botanist.

From the description of Correspondence, 1820-1848. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122464819

Turner was an English banker, antiquarian, art patron, collector and botanist. His art collection, originally purchased from John Crome, Thomas Harvey and dealers such as Alexis Delahante was sold at Christie's, London, on May 14, 1852.

From the description of Letters regarding art collecting, 1797-1833. (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 84547240

Collector of the correspondence of major British historical figures.

From the description of Miscellanea curiosa : collected by Dawson Turner, 1549- 1834. (Virginia Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 30087479

Botanist and antiquary Dawson Turner was born at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk on 18 October 1775 to banker James Turner and Elizabeth Cotman, the only daughter of the John Cotman, mayor of Yarmouth. He received his early education at the public grammar school and afterwards privately by Reverend Robert Forby, a botanist of some ability, from whom it is believed that Turner may have acquired his penchant for botany. He entered Pembroke College of Cambridge in 1793 only to leave a year later maybe in part because his father was ill; he died that same year. Following in his father's footsteps, he joined the Yarmouth Bank in 1796. During the same year, Turner married Mary Palgrave by whom he had 11 children. The fortune left to him by his father gave Turner the opportunity to pursue his foremost interests, botany, more specifically cryptogamic botany, and the study of antiquities.

Turner devoted most of his leisure time to botanical tours. In 1799 for instance he made an extensive tour through the western counties in England and on his return published a catalogue of the rarer plants collected on the expedition. In the following years he made tours in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Turner was most notably interested in mosses, lichens, and algae, describing in publications four new species of lichens between 1802 and 1804.

Turner published numerous works on the subject of botany including, The Botanist's Guide through England and Wales and the Natural History of Fuci . He also contributed several articles to the Transactions of the Linnean Society and formed large collections, predominantly of algae. After 1820, Turner seems to have directed his attention to the study of antiquities, in part because he gave the whole of his herbarium to his son-in-law Sir William Hooker, with possibly his most notable contribution the, Account of a Tour in Normandy, undertaken chiefly for the purpose of investigating the Architectural Antiquities of the Duchy . Many of his publications were enriched by drawings and etchings by his wife and six daughters.

Many of his family's drawing supplemented the nearly 8,000 volumes that comprised Turner's extensive personal library. Turner's Library was a leading interest of his throughout his life and he continued to collect book nearly to the end of his life. Turner was also an avid collector of manuscripts, his collection included the literary and scientific correspondence of many prominent men such as, Sir Isaac Newton, John Pinkerton, and Henry Baker, as well as some 25,000 autograph letters.

Between 1797 and 1803 he was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society, the Imperial Academy, the Royal Society, and the Society of Antiquaries. He continued to work as a banker in Yarmouth until 1851 when after his wife had died, Turner married a woman whom his family did not approve causing him to move to London. In 1855 Tuner's health began to fail and he died in London on 21 June 1858.

From the guide to the Dawson Turner Papers, 1820-1848, (American Philosophical Society)


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  • Book collectors
  • Numismatists
  • Acquisitions (Libraries)
  • Voyages and travels--17th century
  • Religious literature
  • Book collecting
  • Private libraries--19th century--Catalogs
  • Auctioneers
  • Botany
  • Art criticism--19th-20th centuries
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Manuscripts--Catalogs
  • Private libraries
  • Beyond Early America


  • Collector


  • England--London (as recorded)
  • Virginia (as recorded)
  • Savoy (France and Italy) (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • England--Manchester (as recorded)
  • Ireland (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)