The East India Company was founded in Gothenburg in 1731 and its purpose was to carry on trade and shipping in the East Indies and other places east of the Cape of Good Hope. The company’s activities were divided into something called octrois, which were the periods when permission had been granted to carry on business. In total, there were five octrois during the years 1731-46, 1746-66, 1766-86, 1786-1806 and 1806-21 (the last one was not utilised). Each trip lasted for about a year and a half and altogether 132 expeditions were carried through. After each journey an auction was held in Gothenburg. At the homecoming the merchandise on board were things like porcelain, tea, silk and medicinal herbs. The company brought in a huge profit and had a large cultural influence on Swedish households at the end of the 18th century.

Michael Grubb

Sample of a Grubb sheet.
Sample of a Grubb sheet. Click on the image for fullsize version.

Michael Grubb (1728-1808) travelled for the first time with the East India Company in 1749. For a time he was a supercargo (the person on board in charge of the cargo, the merchandise and any purchases that would occur during the journey) and eventually settled for six years in Canton where he established the first Swedish trading post. Back in Gothenburg he took over as director of the East India Company between the years 1766-69. He was raised to the nobility in 1768 as af Grubbens, became part-owner of Garphyttans bruk and was elected a member of the Academy of Science in 1777 (though later expelled together with other persons who where no longer considered to be of any use). Shady transactions caused him to be declared bankrupt on several occasions.

Grubb’s contribution to the Bergius Herbarium

Grubb was a diligent collector of natural-history specimens and he returned home with plants, insects and birds as well as a “strange sea creature”. P.J. Bergius described the latter in a paper in the documents of the Academy of Science. The “sea creature” is a stone-borer with the Latin name of Teredo chrysodon (a relative of the shipworm). Some hundreds of plants in the Bergius Herbarium were gathered by Grubb, mainly from the Cape area in South Africa. These formed the basis of P.J. Bergius’s Plantae Capenses, a flora of the Cape Province from 1767. There are many type specimens in Grubb’s collection.