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


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


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Marginalia in the ‘bible’ of pollen analysis: Gunnar Erdtman and the annotations of a displeased ‘evangelist’'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this