Grew, Nehemiah

The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun

  • First edition of the founding text of scientific botany.

    Author Nehemiah Grew began his career as a physician but soon developed an interest in plant anatomy, in part because the subject had not yet been rigorously investigated.

    "Grew was a conscious pioneer in a hitherto neglected area...  His work was primarily marked by his brilliant observation and description of plants and their component parts; having begun by making observations using only the naked eye, Grew supplemented these with the use of a microscope under the tutelage of his colleague Hooke. His presentations to the society began in 1672–4 with the roots, branches, and trunks of plants, proceeding thereafter to their leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds. In each area he was innovative, studying for the first time many features of plants that have since been taken for granted, such as their cell-like structure and the growth rings in wood, and deploying techniques which have since become commonplace, such as the use of transverse, radial, and tangential longitudinal sections to analyse the structure of stems and roots. He was also an innovator in the terminology he used to describe plants, first using such terms as ‘radicle’ or ‘parenchyma’, a word adapted from its use in animal anatomy by Francis Glisson. Grew was primarily interested in the morphology and taxonomy of plants, but this led him to study plant physiology; he thus considered how buds grew, how seeds developed, and other related topics. He also recognized the sexual nature of plant reproduction, though, with characteristic modesty, he acknowledged that this idea had already occurred to the physician Sir Thomas Millington" (ODNB).

    The Anatomy of Vegetables was Grew's first and most important book, and was not superseded until the 19th century.

  • With a General Account of Vegetation Founded Thereon. London: for Spencer Hickman, 1672. Octavo. Contemporary calf rebacked to style. 3 folding engraved plates. A few contemporary annotations in ink. Sympathetically rebacked with professional repairs to corners and edges, unevenly trimmed slightly affecting some words in the dedication and on a few other pages, some fraying and minor worming to fore-edge, a little spotting and toning to contents, professional tissue repairs to the edges of the Royal Society permission leaf and title page, minor dampstaining to margins of final leaves. A very good copy. Bibliography: Norman 944;  Dibner 21; Wing G-1946; Morton, pp. 178-195.

Collections: Biology & Natural History

Category: Illustrated




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