Tournefort, Joseph Pitton de

18th-century Jesuit botanical manuscript titled 'Herbarum, Fruticum et Arborum Icones quadam ex Institutione Turnefortii

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    An interesting 18th-century manuscript containing 201 pages of illustrations copied from botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort’s landmark work Élémens de botanique, first published in 1694. The manuscript was meant to be used as a practical reference — ”ad usum descriptoris inficeti” “for use as a rough/crude delineator”, as the title puts it. It begins with a sixteen page index, each species is clearly labelled, pages are numbered, and occasional notes about the plants are included. The drawings are delicate, using fine cross-hatching to create depth, and most species are instantly recognisable. Flowers, buds, seed pods, leaves, and roots are all represented depending on their importance in identification, and many of the illustrations depict a sequence, such as the development the flower or seed pods over time (though comparison with the original illustrations shows that some stages were left out for brevity). Among the most elaborate illustrations are passionflower, lilly, nigella (love-in-a-mist), peony, argemone (prickly poppy), crown imperial fritillary, and iris. The compiler was most likely a Jesuit, as the half title features the Christogram of the Society of Jesus.
  • The naturalist on whose work this manuscript is based, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708), studied botany with Pierre Magnol in Montpellier, obtained a medical degree in Paris, and became a demonstrator at the Jardin du Roi in Paris. Throughout his career de Tournefort made extensive collecting trips across southern Europe and the Levant, travelling as far as Oxford in 1687. His most important contribution to botany was his original system of plant classification, which was the first to clearly define plant genera. A street in Paris and a number of plant species are named after him.

    “Using the quite considerable herbarium he had by this time amassed, Tournefort began to work on his most important publication. After taking over the position of professor of botany at the garden in 1693 (a post he would fill until his death) he published Elemens de botanique ou métode pour connaître les plantes; produced in three volumes in 1694 it explained his classification system and included 10,146 species under 698 genera. Past classification systems had always contained the description of species characteristics but Tournefort's was the first system to describe the shared characteristics of each of his genera, although he never described the species within them. The genera were split into 22 classes, initially by separating the trees and herbs, before basing the other groups primarily on the morphology of the corolla... The simplicity of his system meant that it was adopted quickly throughout Europe and many botanic gardens arranged their specimens according to his work. To this day the Tournefort herbarium is kept according to the classification system of its collector, housed separately in the Museum of Natural History in Paris (P-TRF)” (Natural History Museum biographical reference, JSTOR).

  • ...Tom. II et III num. 625, ad usum Descriptoris inficeti pars [prima?]' 1769.

    Quarto, 114 leaves. Original stiff paper boards, contemporary or near-contemporary library shelf number in ink to the spine. Title and half title, 16 page index, 201 pages of drawings. Three loosely inserted slips with manuscript notes. Boards worn, pencil and ink doodles to upper and lower covers, joints cracked, final gathering separated, some old repairs (primarily paper repairs and leaves reinserted on stubs), marks and spots to contents. Good condition.

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