THE BASIS OF MODERN NATURAL CLASSIFICATION

Genera plantarum secundum ordines naturales disposita, juxta methodum in horto region parisiensi exaratam, anno M. DCC. LXXIV.

Paris, widow Herissant, and Theophile Barrois, 1789.

8vo, pp. 24, lxxii, 498, [2 (manuscript errata)]; Z2 and Z3 misbound; fore-edges toned and chipped, all leaves laminated in tissue, damage to gutter of title touching first character of a few lines; recased in late eighteenth-century blue paper wrappers, later printed paper label to spine; heavily annotated throughout in a contemporary shorthand, with marginal and interlinear notes and paper slips tipped in.

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An extensively annotated copy of the first natural classification of flowering plants, derived by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748–1836) from the unpublished work of his uncle, Bernard de Jussieu (1699–1777). Though de Jussieu’s associate Michel Adanson had introduced the concept of natural classification in 1763, it was de Jussieu who applied a Linnaean hierarchy of Divisions, Classes, and Orders, the union of the two proving enormously influential in future botanical developments: ‘this volume formed the basis of modern classification; more than this, it is certain that Cuvier derived much help in his zoological classification from its perusal’ (Britannica).

‘It fell to Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu to make natural classification a universally accepted concept and the primary aim in botany. The principles of the method and an impressive example of the result of applying them to all known plants, were published in his Genera Plantarum in 1789, making that year as decisive a turning point in biology as it was in the social and political history of Europe. […] his scientific common sense caused him to adopt the Linnean nomenclature, already the indispensable tool of serious taxonomy, and in consequence the [Genera Plantarum] was a far more effective means of winning adherents for Adanson’s method than were his own writings. […] The great contribution of de Jussieu was to make clear the technique of natural classification and to demonstrate its power and practicality by the hundred families of plants he defined. Of these, ninety-four are flowering plants, and it is a tribute to A.-L. Jussieu’s botanical flair and to his skilled use of Adansonian techniques, that most of the families he included are considered natural at the present day.’ (Morton, pp. 311-312).

Quérard IV, p. 274; cf. A.G. Morton, History of Botanical Science (1981), pp. 296-313.

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