Julia Heideklang: Traces of the Plant World: How to Read Botanical Prose
Vortrag im Rahmen des History of Science Society Annual Meeting in Utrecht (NL)
Throughout the 16th century the most influential scholars of the time as well as interested laypeople started collecting, sending, and amassing immense herbaria of plant specimens. In this way, plant specimens gradually gained importance and meaning, being increasingly perceived by naturalists as equivalent to quotations and paper slips. Eventually, herbaria transformed into printed publications, which in turn had to be read in a certain way. As the student of medicine and Italian poet Christoforo Paganelli wrote in one of his dedicatory poems for Andrea Cesalpinoʼs De plantis (1583): “…whether picking up (legens) a fruit of the greening garden, or herbs, or pleasantly smelling little flowers, you want nothing less than to leave.” Keeping in mind the different semantic meanings of legere—picking-up, reading, collecting—introduces an analogy of reading the book like one reads fruits, herbs, and flowers in the garden, thus bearing interesting implications for the readership. In my talk I contrast the very conscious reflections on texts, books, natural things and related practices discussed in the paratexts of Andrea Cesalpinoʼs De plantis and Pier Andrea Mattioliʼs Commentarii (first edition 1550 in Italian) with my findings of inserted natural things and their traces in some remaining copies of these works. This gives us new insights into how readers perceived those two quite different works and their positions on debates over how to write botanical prose as well as into how natural things, their traces, and their textual-visual representations in the printed books interacted with one another.