Born in Castel Goffredo (Lombardy), Giuseppe Acerbi (May 3, 1773 – August 25, 1846) was an Italian naturalist, explorer and composer that traveled to Lapland in 1798, publishing (1802) his experiences through Sweden, Finland and Lapland to the North Cape in the years 1798 and 1799. Some of his works can be found in the New York Society Library in New York; he has also written other works along with compositions that became popular.
During his travels, he collected some Finnish folk melodies and religious songs, one of which he used in a Clarinet Concerto: this was the first Finnish melody to be used in serious music. In 1836, Acerbi retired from his travels and career and returned to his hometown Castel Goffredo where he began organizing and administering his notes and collections from his travels: he never completed the task, as he died in his hometown Castel Goffredo on August 25, 1846, at the age of seventy-three. Giuseppe Acerbi was educated by both his parents at a young age: as he got older, he eventually was taught by a tutor that demanded Acerbi to learn French, German and English as an addition of knowing his native Italian language, and Latin. He was taught about classic music, art, and became heavily involved with sciences: at the age of twenty one, he graduated in Law at the University of Pavia. Since the start of his travels, the Finnish coast was not what Acerbi expected: he hated it from the beginning. He was shocked by the culture of the people and, after fighting with other explorers that were part of his trip, Acerbi decided to return home by traveling through Finnish Lapland on his own. On his way, he recorded hundreds of pages of observations on the Sami people: he wrote notes on the Sami music, language, clothing and customs. Eventually, he would grow to appreciate the Sami people and culture. During his stay in Finland he picked up several books of poems: ‘Jos mun tuttuni tulisi’ (“If you were my dear”), the lullaby ‘Nuku, nuku nurmilintu’ (“Sleep, sleep little bird”), the poem of Antti Keksi about the flood of the river Tornionjoki in 1677, that eventually became a religious song. He also recorded the melody of the song “Do Not Be afraid of the People of Finland” and of ‘Kalevala‘, the Finnish epic poem, composed of 50 songs, or runi, describing the execution of the poems, the local shaman singers. The figure of Acerbi is much more famous in Finland than in Italy: for example, the Finnish radio station’s title is derived from his melody. Acerbi returned to Italy after the publication of his book, where today an Italian literary award, the ‘Premio letterario Giuseppe Acerbi”, is named after him. Botanical nomenclature: the standard author abbreviation Acerbi is used to indicate his person as the author when citing a botanical name.