Giuseppe Acerbi

A traveller from Mantua in Lapland

iuseppe Acerbi was born on the 3rd of May in 1773 in Castel Goffredo, Italy. In his early years he was educated by his parents, later by a private tutor. Language studies played an important role and in addition to his native Italian Acerbi had a good command of French, German and English. It was taken for granted in the 18th century that a well-educated man had a command of Latin and knowledge of Classical literature. It was not only the humanistic studies that were central in Acerbi's education, he was also acquainted with science. Giuseppe Acerbi, a man with versatile talents, was well provided for later life by his home and family. Acerbi studied at the university of Pavia where he received a degree in law at the age of 21. There is no denying that Acerbi was a man of versatile talents and thorough education. A good upbringing, a wide though superficial knowledge base in combination with excellent language skills were to a great avail for Acerbi. He also had talents in music, literature and art. Giuseppe Acerbi is an embodiment of the ideals of the era, a child of his times, a cultural personality.

During Acerbi's time geography had become a fashionable science and travel literature had a central part in the cultural life of the 18th century. It is highly probable that it was also Acerbi's aim to write a book of his travels when he set out on his long journey to the outskirts of Europe, to the North Cape. During the course of the journey Acerbi kept a journal. The 18th century was the golden era for journals, letters and memoirs. The notebook on the journey to Lapland, preserved at the communal library of Mantova , offers an opportunity to follow, day by day, the progress of the journey towards the northernmost point of Europe. The journal is filled with notes on the fauna, flora and minerals. Acerbi also drew sketches of local natural scientific and ethnographical specialities and Acerbi characterised his journey as a scientific expedition. The journey that had started as an expedition turned into an ambitious sporting undertaking when the journey advanced more and more north.

The travelling party
Acerbi's travelling companion was Bernardo Bellotti, a son of a bank manager from Brescia. The Swedish companion, A.F.Skjöldebrand, joined the party in Stockholm. In Oulu the party was joined by apothecary Johan Julin, a specialist in botany and meteorology and by district doctor Henric Deutsch, a specialist in entomology. In Kemi vicar Matthias Castrén joined the party and all the way to Ylitornio he was the authority in botany for Acerbi.

Route | Scientific interests | Pictures from travels | On Acerbi's footsteps
Travellers in Lapland