First Linnaean Taxonomy in English

Withering, William. A Botanical Arrangement of all the Vegetables Naturally Growing in Great Britain... According to the System of the Celebrated Linnaeus... In Two Volumes.

Birmingham: by M. Swinney, 1776. 220 by 140mm (8¾ by 5½ inches). 8vo. 2 vols. Rebound (early 20th century) in half tan calf over marbled boards; xcvi, 838 pp. First edition. With 12 engraved plates (complete).

Binding very good plus (i.e. very nicely rebound); interior good to very good; plates with some folding and one with small holes (no loss); text of both volumes with old and faded water soiling, lighter in the second volume. 

Even nonscientists remember from school that there are kingdoms, divided into classes, into orders, genus, and species (i.e. the Linnaean taxonomy). This book was the first time the then new Linnaean taxonomy was applied to botany in English (previously, only in Latin). As a result, this book became the standard reference work for English botany for almost 100 years. 

William Withering (1741–1799) is criticized for deliberately omitting any reference to sexual reproduction, out of a desire to protect female modesty”. In the introduction he states: From an apprehension that Botany in an English dress would become a favourite amusement with the Ladies, many of whom are very considerable proficients in the study, in spite of every difficulty; it was thought proper to drop the sexual distinctions in the title to the Classes and Orders, and to adhere only to those of Number, Situation, andc.” p. v. 

Withering is best known for his 1785 discovery that dropsy (swelling from congestive heart failure) improves remarkably with an herbal remedy from the Foxglove plant. He foreshadows his discovery in this book published 8 years prior. Under the entry for Foxglove he writes: It is certainly a very active medicine, and merits more attention than modern practice bestows upon it.” p. 376.

A beautifully rebound set.


In stock

Stock Code: 1058B18 Collection:


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