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Gardening Nature, Gardening Knowledge: The Parallel Activities of Stabilizing Knowledge and Gardens in the Early Modern Period

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Abstract

This chapter discusses how nature and knowledge were domesticated by the parallel activities of constructing early modern gardens and publishing botanical books. In both activities, students of nature collected botanical knowledge and plants to make them solid, mobile, reproducible, and combinable, in order to understand nature’s workings. Naturalists made exotic flora transportable by labeling and wrapping seeds and bulbs, plants and sapling so that they might safely arrive in the Low Countries. In Dutch gardens, the specimens were planted and domesticated, so unfamiliar flora could be admired and examined. Alternatively, plants were made immutable by being turned into pressed and dried specimens in herbaria or by being depicted and described in publications. As images in publications, exotic plants could circulate and be examined by botanists and amateurs elsewhere. Knowledge and plants, both made solid and mobile in books, helped in the formation of agreement about nomenclature and the early modern idea of nature’s workings. The stabilization and domestication of nature enabled producers and consumers to take power over local and exotic plants and make nature combinable and controllable.

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... For some recent examples of treatment of New World specimens, see, e.g., ČERNÁ (2016), GIGLIONI (2018). 2 For more on the experimental approach to plants in Early Modern Era, see especially MATEI (2018) and BALDASSARI (2018). On the history of gardens and horticulture, see FLEISCHER (2010), FLEISCHER (2016), and RODRIGUES (2017). 3In the following, I refrain from discussing investigation of plants from distant geographical regions. ...
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