Danzig Notables -- Johann Philipp Breyne

Johann Philipp Breyne, born 1680, was the son of Jacob Breyne (1637-1697), noted Danzig merchant and botanist, and Sarah Rogge, daughter of Danzig minter and engraver, Gerard Rogge. Like his father he studied in Leyden, but he earned a degree in medicine and became a practicing physician in Danzig. (In 1716 he certified the health of Czar Peter the Great.) Before settling in Danzig, however, he traveled for two years in Europe (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Saxony, and Germany), including a year in London and at Oxford. The relations he established on these travels were maintained through diligent correspondence after his return to Danzig in 1704. Among Danzig scholars he probably had the most extensive contacts to scholars throughout Europe.

Like his father, Breyne wrote on botanical topics when he was not practicing his profession. Both cultivated their botanical gardens with the aid of friends in Holland and by virtue of trade with the Dutch East Indies, Japan, and southern Africa. Johann Philipp Breyne was particularly interested in the medicinal uses of these plants. When he offered his garden for sale at the end of his life he listed 118 pineapple plants, several fig, coffee and oleander trees. Among other treasures were also acacia and pomegranate trees, a cinnamon tree from Ceylon and a camphor tree from Japan. In the field of zoology Breyne collected fossils and indigenous birds. He possessed 11 drawers of minerals. Like others in Danzig (Klein, for instance) he collected amber. In his efforts to systematize these collections he influenced Jacob Theodor Klein. No doubt through his mother's inheritance, he possessed an important coin collection of over 1000 pieces. These collections could be seen by visitors in the family's home in the center of town, at Langgasse 30. [images] The collections, as well as his library, were sold to St. Petersburg in 1766. Johann Philipp Breyne was a member of the Imperial Leopoldine-Carolinian Academy of Natural Sciences and the Royal Society of London. In Danzig he was a member of the Societas Litteraria (1720-1727) and co-founder of the Naturforschende Gesellschaft (1743). He died in 1764.

Breyne was a wealthy doctor with several properties, four in the prestigious Rechtstadt district in the center of Danzig alone, and one at Brabank 7 (auf dem "Alten Schloß") which he inherited through his wife Constantia, née Ludewig (1687-1742). After their marriage in 1707 this is where the couple lived and where Johann Philipp established his botanical garden. In addition to the botanical items in the greenhouse, the garden featured a grotto, a fountain, and statuary (Flora and Apollo, both life sized). Of eight children, the two sons died early and also two daughters. Constantia Breyne was remembered at her death (1742) for the care with which she educated her daughters in all fields. The four surviving daughters, like the daughters of Jacob Theodor Klein, were given lessons in drawing and painting, and three of them are responsible for many of the large, colored drawings that illustrate their father's works: Constantia Philippina (1708-?); Anna Renata (1713-1759); and Johanna Henrietta (1714-1797). In four folio volumes (from the 1730s) Anna Renata was responsible for 93 illustrations, Johanna Henrietta for 76 and Constantia Philippina for 20.

[Helmut Roob, Cornelia Hopf. Jacob und Johann Philipp Breyne. Einleitung. Zwei Danziger Botaniker im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. Heft 27. Veröffentlichungen der Forschungsbibliothek Gotha. 1988. S. 9-15.]
[Edward Carstenn. Georg Daniel Seylers "Versuch einer Poetischen Reise-Beschreibung. A. 1744". In Mitteilungen des Westpreußischen Geschichtsvereins. 25/1 (1 January 1926) 1-17.]