Article ID: CBB461853022

‘The Most Common Grass, Rush, Moss, Fern, Thistles, Thorns or Vilest Weeds You Can Find’: James Petiver's Plants (2020)


The dried plant specimens painstakingly acquired by the London apothecary James Petiver (ca 1663–1718) from around the world constitute a substantial, but underappreciated, component of the vast herbarium of Sir Hans Sloane, now housed at London's Natural History Museum. Petiver was an observant field biologist whose own collecting was focused in south-east England. However, he also obtained specimens from an astoundingly wide geographical area via numerous collectors, more than 160 of whose names are known. While many were wild-collected, gardens in Great Britain and abroad also played a role in facilitating the study of the many new and strange exotics that were arriving in Europe. A new estimate of the number of specimens present in Petiver's herbarium suggests a figure of ca 21 000 gatherings. In this article, the appearance of the bound volumes, and the arrangement of the specimens within them, is assessed and contrasted with those volumes assembled by Leonard Plukenet and Hans Sloane. Petiver's published species descriptions and illustrations are shown to be frequently associated with extant specimens, letters and other manuscripts, making the whole a rich archive for the study of early modern collecting of natural curiosities at a time of increasing ‘scientific’ purpose.

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Article Richard Coulton (2020) ‘What he hath gather'd together shall not be lost’: remembering James Petiver. Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science (pp. 189-211). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Delbourgo, James
Kinukawa, Tomomi
Murphy, Kathleen S.
Riley, Margaret
Ibáñez, Neus
Soriano, Ignasi
Archives of Natural History
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
William and Mary Quarterly
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Cambridge University Press
Collectors and collecting
Natural history
Specimen exchange
Biological specimens
Petiver, James
Sloane, Hans
Salvador i Riera, Joan
Cartier, Jacques
Champlain, Samuel de
Merian, Maria Sibylla
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
20th century, early
19th century
16th century
Early modern
London (England)
Great Britain
Barcelona (Spain)
North America
Institut Botànic de Barcelona
British Museum
Habsburg, House of
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Society of Apothecaries, London
Zoological Society of London

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