Joseph Planta (librarian)

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Joseph Planta FRS (21 February 1744, Castasegna, Switzerland – 3 December 1827, London, England), aka Joseph von Planta,[1] was a librarian of Romansh-Swiss origin who moved to London and became the Principal Librarian of the British Museum.[2]

Joseph Planta was born at Castasegna in Grisons, Switzerland, the son of Reverend Andrew (aka Andreas) Planta (1717–1773).[3][4][5] He studied philology at Utrecht, the Netherlands and then Göttingen, Germany.

File:Salis impaling Planta, for Landaman Herkules v. Salis & Maria v. Planta.jpg
Salis impaling Planta, for Landaman Herkules v. Salis & Maria v. Planta.

Planta travelled for a while and then moved to England in 1752, where his father was a pastor for the German Reformed Church in London and also assistant librarian in the British Museum. He succeeded his father as assistant librarian in 1773.[6] He was promoted to keeper of manuscripts in 1776 and then Principal Librarian in charge of the museum from 1799 until his death in 1827.

At the British Museum, Planta produced a library catalogue for the Cotton manuscripts. As Under Librarian, Planta organized the rehousing of the museum's coin collection. His time as Principal Librarian was a significant period in the history of the British Museum.[4] He improved the facilities available for the public.

Joseph Planta was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1774.[3][7] Soon after Planta was appointed as an assistant at the British Museum, he published a paper on the Romansh language of the area Switzerland in which he was born in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.[8][9] The paper was read to the Royal Society on 10 November 1775. He was also appointed as one of the secretaries to the Royal Society in 1776.

His son, Sir Joseph Planta (1787–1847), MP for Hastings, was born at the British Museum.[10]


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