Rev. Andreas Joseph Planta (1717—1773) had an interesting background. His family was prominent in the Grisons region of Switzerland/Italy (depending on your period), tracing their lineage back to the twelfth century, and a family of the same name and locale was also prominent in Imperial Rome. Andreas himself became a pastor in Castasegna, a rare example of an Italian-speaking Protestant parish. After a period as Professor of Mathematics at Erlangen, in 1752 or 1753 he came to London as pastor to the German Reformed Church at Savoy. In 1758 he was also appointed as a part-time assistant librarian at the British Museum and in the 1760s was engaged as a tutor in Italian to Queen Charlotte. One of the duties of the British Museum staff was to escort visitors around the collection, and in 1765 Planta showed the Museum to the Mozart family, resulting in a gift of manuscripts of several of the young Wolfgang’s works to the collection.
In 1770 Andreas, or Andrew as he went by in England, was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, his citation reading,
Andrew Joseph Planta of the British Museum MA, & Minister of the German Reformed Church at the Savoy, a Gentleman of good learning, and well versed in natural knowledge, being desirous of becoming a member of the Royal Society; we recommend him, of our Personal acquaintance, as likely to be a valuable & useful member.
His proposers, several of whom had connections to the British Museum, were:
- Rev. Gregory Sharpe (1713—1771);
- Gowin Knight (1713—1772), First Librarian of the British Museum;
- Henry Baker (1698—1774);
- Jerome De Salis (1709—1794) (the De Salis family was equally prominent in Grisons);
- Joseph Ayloffe (1709—1781);
- Matthew Duane (1707—1785), trustee of the British Museum;
- Charles Morton (1716—1799), Librarian of the British Museum;
- Samuel Harper (c. 1732—1803), under-librarian at the British Museum;
- Mathew Maty (1718—1776), librarian at the British Museum;
- Richard Penneck (1728—1803), Keeper of the Reading Room at the British Museum;
- Rev. Henry Putman (1725—1797);
- Joshua Kirby (1716—1774), and;
- John Bevis (1695—1771).
Andreas Planta married Margarete Scartazzini Debolziani when a pastor in Castasegna. Of their children, son Joseph in turn became Librarian at the British Museum (and his son Joseph a prominent diplomat), Elizabeth was governess to the notorious Mary Bowes, and Margaret and Frederica were English tutors to the princesses.