Project history

This work has its origins in the 1970s, when three of the editors independently began researching different aspects of Ferdinand von Mueller’s life and work. Doris M. Sinkora (1927–2017), Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, was involved in locating surviving batches of Mueller’s correspondence to aid in the interpretation of his specimens at the National Herbarium of Victoria. She also contributed to the production of a comprehensive list of Mueller’s publications1. Johannes H. Voigt (1929–2020), Stuttgart University, began researching German-Australian relations during a fellowship at the Australian National University, 1968–71. Mueller quickly emerged as a key figure in this context2. Arthur M. Lucas, then at Flinders University in Adelaide, identified Mueller as a suitable case study in a larger project on science education.

In 1987, Voigt and Lucas (who had by now met Sinkora) independently contacted Rod W. Home in his capacity as Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne about their shared interest in Mueller3. Home suggested the four scholars join forces to see if there were any prospect of obtaining funds for an edition of Mueller’s correspondence.

As lead applicant, Home obtained three years of funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) in 1988, and the in-principle interest of a Melbourne publisher in issuing the correspondence in book form. The editors appointed historian Sara Maroske as a researcher to find and transcribe Mueller’s correspondence. An advisory Board was also appointed to advise on issues arising in the production and editing of the correspondence.

A template for the transcription and translation of Mueller’s letters and a house style for editing and documentation were developed4. Members of the project team shared responsibility for locating Mueller correspondence in different parts of the world, an effort that soon revealed many more letters had survived than expected.

In 1998, historian Monika Wells replaced Maroske, who commenced a doctorate at the University of Melbourne on Mueller5. Maroske remained on the project team as an editor, and Wells was also recognised as an editor in 2006. The fifth, and final editor, Thomas A. Darragh, of Museums Victoria, initially joined the project as a member of the advisory board. He gradually took over responsibility for the German language translations from Doris Sinkora. In preparation for the publication of this electronic edition he was formally designated an editor in 2019.

The ARC supported the project for five years. Thereafter a number of bodies funded the researcher position up to 2004 including the R.E. Ross Trust, Sidney Myer Trust, William Buckland Foundation, Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and King’s College London. The editors have subsequently continued working on the correspondence as circumstances allowed, and it became the major focus of Home, Lucas and Darragh after their respective ‘retirements’.

The project’s initial prospective publisher withdrew support when the magnitude of Mueller’s surviving correspondence became clear. Nevertheless, with the assistance of a subsidy organised by Günter Klatt of the Einhorn-Rats-Apotheke in Husum, Peter Lang (Bern) agreed to publish a selection of Mueller’s correspondence in three volumes, along with a CD-ROM of the entire correspondence. The three volumes appeared under the title of Regardfully yours in 1998, 2002, and 2006.

As the internet developed it became clear that CD-ROM was not as suitable as online publication, which offered a flexible, secure and widely accessible platform for the correspondence. In 2017, preparation for on-line publication began with the co-operation of Gavan McCarthy, the Director of the University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre. In 2020, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria agreed to be the main electronic publisher6.

As the surviving editors continue editing and uploading letters to the website, they gratefully acknowledge the contributions of numerous institutions, colleagues and volunteers around the world in finding, interpreting and writing about the correspondence of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller.


A project of this kind inevitably depends for its success on the co-operation of many individuals and institutions. We record here our thanks to all those who have helped us bring the work to fruition. In particular, we gratefully acknowledge the support and encouragement we have received from the institutions where we have been employed and at which the project’s offices have been based, namely the University of Melbourne and its Department of History and Philosophy of Science, King’s College London, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Museums Victoria and the Historisches Institut of Stuttgart University.

Many other people, far too numerous to name, have shared Mueller letters or other Mueller-related material, including previously overlooked publications of Mueller’s. Acknowledgements are made to these individuals, where appropriate, in notes to letters.


Generous financial support for the project has been provided by the Australian Research Council, the R.E. Ross Trust, the Sidney Myer Trust, the William Buckland Foundation, the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, King’s College London, Australia Post and Deutsche Post—the last two in conjunction with the production of a joint Australian-German postal issue in 1996 to mark the centenary of Mueller’s death—the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Baker Foundation, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Dr Sophie Ducker, and anonymous donors in Melbourne and London.

Dr Günter Klatt, the former proprietor of the Einhorn-Rats-Apotheke in Husum, the pharmacy at which Mueller received his training in the 1840s, very kindly assembled the subsidy that made publication of the three volumes of selected correspondence possible, and was himself a most generous contributor to it. Several other north German pharmacists also contributed, as follows: Dr Jochen Gelberg, Hamburg; Helmuth Kehrhahn, Elmshorn; Dietrich Klindwort, Bad Schwartau; Peter Krause, Preetz; Dr Jochen Rüdel, Kiel; Burkhardt Schütze, Hamburg-Harburg. Additional contributions came from the Einhorn-Rats-Apotheke, Husum; the Gesellschaft für Husumer Stadtgeschichte, Husum; the Gesellschaft für Tönninger Stadtgeschichte, Tönning; the Hansestadt Rostock; and the Kreis Nordfriesland.


An advisory board was established at the commencement of the project and was a source of encouragement, support and wise advice. Its members were Dr P. M. Attiwill, Professor T. C. Chambers, Ms Helen M. Cohn, Dr Thomas A. Darragh, Professor S. T. Knight, Ms Jane Lennon, Associate Professor Gavan J. McCarthy, Dr J. H. Ross, Professor J. W. Warren and Dr J. H. Willis. In the last decades of the project, the editors were also supported by an informal editorial advisory group comprising Dr T. A. Darragh, Ms Helen M. Cohn, and Associate Professor Gavan J. McCarthy.

Dr Philip Moors, who part way through the production of the selected edition became Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, enthusiastically supported the work, as has his successor, Professor Timothy Entwisle.

Gavan McCarthy, together with Conal Touhy, provided invaluable assistance as the project prepared to convert the correspondence for presentation as a web resource. At Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Dr Alastair Robinson oversaw the completion of this work, with detailed implementation supported by Dr Niels Klazenga.


In addition to the researcher position, a number of part-time, or short-term researchers were hired by the project. These included: Paula Lucas in London; Doris Errmann, Ulrike Kirchberger, Annette Emrath and Ingrid Voigt in Stuttgart; and Andrew Brown-May, Thomas M. May and Angela McWhinney in Melbourne.


A number of individuals made significant contributions to the project as on-going volunteers. They included: Nancy Wallace (Latin translations), Sibely May (nomenclature), Majorie Home (inscriptions), Rita Hutchison (transcriptions), Peter Cavanagh and Bob Patey (proof reading), and Lawrence Cohn (identification of people and Australian place names).


Colleagues who have assisted in translating documents from various languages into English, included: Associate Professor Roger Scott (Latin, Greek), Dr Stephen Kolsky (Italian), Professor Manuel Thomaz and Dr Isabel Malaquias (Portuguese), and Herbert Meyer and Hans Schroeder (German).

Others have generously shared specialist knowledge bearing on Mueller’s life and work, including: Richard Aitken (garden history), Barbara Archer (Mueller’s Western Australian collector Sarah Brooks), Fred Atherton (shipping information), Eamon Bolger (Hector correspondence), Anthea Bundock (Australian Dictionary of Biography files), Gail Clements (Queensland Acclimatisation Society records), Lorna Crowther (John Dallachy), George Daws (Mueller’s land dealings in South Australia), Ruth Dwyer (Argus references), Lois Fox (archives of Victorian local councils), Lionel Gilbert (Australian botanical history and Bishop James Turner), Francine Gilfedder (Australian garden history), Linden Gillbank (the acclimatisation movement, Mueller’s exploration of the Australian Alps and Gippsland), Ralph Grandison (Mueller’s South Australian expeditions), Jill Heathcote (Mueller’s links with Warrnambool and district), Darrell Lewis (Leichhardt traces), Graeme Powell (Mueller-related materials in the National Library of Australia), Nancy McHaffie and Meg Davis (Mueller and Euphemia Henderson), Gabrielle McMullen (Victoria’s German newspapers), Bonnie Mezger (Mueller records in Western Australia), Geoff Miller (Mueller’s pharmaceutical prescriptions), Ann Moyal and Michael Organ (W. B. Clarke), Rory O’Brien (New Zealand birds), Bob Paddle (thylacines), Prof. Ian Rae (Pedro Nisser), Jenny Tonkin (botanical information), Darren Watson (nineteenth-century employment records, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne). Professor Ruben Contreras and Heloisa Domingues kindly served as guides to relevant archives in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro respectively.


A vast number of librarians and archivists around the world have facilitated our search for letters to or from Mueller, specimens, and documents about his life and work7. There are too many to name, but we particularly acknowledge the help provided by the librarians at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Helen M. Cohn, Jill Thurlow, Sally Stewart and Philip Bertling; curators of the State Botanical Collection at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Pina Milne and Alison Vaughan; librarians and archivists at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Sylvia FitzGerald, Chris Mills, Fiona Anderson, Cheryl Piggott, Lesley Price, Michele Losse, Kate Pickard, and Kiri Ross-Jones; archivists at the City of Rostock and Karsten Schröder; librarians at the State Library of Victoria, Tony Marshall, Walter Struve and Jock Murphy; Keeper of Public Records at the Public Record Office, Victoria, Chris Hurley; librarian at the State Library of South Australia, Roger Andre; archivist at State Records of South Australia, Judy Jeffery; archivist at the State Records Office of Western Australia, Lise Summers; librarian at the State Library of New South Wales, Margy Burns; librarian at the Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesbibliothek, Kiel, Dr Hans F. Rothert; librarian at Universitätsbibliothek Stuttgart, Dr Ulrich Sieber; archivists at the Royal Geographical Society, London, Christine Kelly and Paula Lucas; librarians and archivists at the Natural History Museum, London, John Thackray, Susan Snell and Carol Gokce; librarian and archivist at the Linnean Society, London, Gina Douglas; librarian Württembergisches Naturkundemuseum, Stuttgart, Dr Manfred Warth; archivist at the University of Tasmania, Shirley King; curator at the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, Julian Holland; librarian at the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, Sheila Houghten; honorary associate at the Museum of New Zealand, Juliet Hobbs; librarian at Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Anna Hallett; archivist, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Helen Yoxall; librarian at the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide and State Herbarium, Gayle Deuny; archivist at the University of Adelaide, Susan Woodburn; Museum curator at the School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat, Jenny Leviston; librarian, National Library of Australia, Graeme Powell; archivist at the University of Melbourne Archives, Mark Richmond; librarian at the Albany Public Library, Malcolm Traill; librarian at the Australian Medical Association, Dr Robyn Mason.

Family records

Several descendants of Mueller’s sister Clara Wehl, namely Melva Armstrong, Beryl Arthur, Val Stenhouse, Joan Creighton, Ruth Blom, Henrietta Sinclair and Neville Stenhouse, donated valuable collections of manuscripts to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Henry Krichauff of Hallett, South Australia, kindly gave us access to letters between his forebear, Friedrich Krichauff, and Mueller. This contact was brought to our attention by Dr Pauline Payne.

1 Maroske (2018); see also the introduction to Mueller’s publications on this website.

2 See memorial essay by Ulrike Kirchberger in Obituaries Australia. ..

3 Maroske, Robin and McCarthy (2017) p. 8.

4 See Editorial Practice.

5 Maroske (2005).

6 See Technology

7 Holders of original manuscripts are listed in Permissions, and the location of each MS is given in the document information pane on each transcription.