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

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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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The article investigates Renaissance naturalists’ views on the links between plants and places where they grow. It looks at the Renaissance culture of botanical excursions and observation of plants in their natural environment and analyses the methods Renaissance naturalists used to describe relations between plants and their habitat, the influence of location on plants’ substantial and accidental characteristics, and in defining species. I worked mostly with printed sixteenth-century botanical sources and paid special attention to the work of Italian naturalist Giambattista Della Porta (1535–1615), whose thoughts on the relationship between plants and places are original, yet little known.
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Although we are frequently confronted with an image of early modern Dutch women as existing primarily, if not exclusively, within the realm of household management, the reality was far more nuanced. A case study of Agnes Block (1629-1704) shows that by focusing on relationships, she succeeded in participating in the creation and dissemination of knowledge of botany in the public sphere and achieved recognition in that sphere, notwithstanding the institutional limits imposed upon her due to her gender. By adapting our methodological and analytical frameworks, in this case by looking to social networks and the power of print media, we can recover the stories of early modern women that are otherwise obscured in the archives and write them into history.
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European dried gardens from the 16th century have been traditionally associated with the emergence of early modern botany and its relation to the traditional genre of pharmacopeias. This study reviews a sample of the 37 known exemplars of these bound collections and argues that the design and development of these herbaria or dried gardens ( orti sicci ), as they were also known, reveal a broader set of questions on nature and about the relationships of humans with the natural world than the ones with which they have been linked. Based on the evidence of a diverse corpus of dried gardens—some richly bound, others composed over recycled paper, some with copious annotations, others with a seemingly random layout and distribution of plants—, this paper argues for a comparative reading of these books as a corpus that contributed significantly to early modern natural history and philosophy.
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Elizabeth Nunez is a postcolonial writer whose writings centre on such subject matters as racism, gender, colonialism and identity that often concern the setting of America and the Caribbean islands. Her novel Prospero's Daughter pieces together a variety of subject matters that incorporates master-slave relationship, oppression and intersection of race and social status in the Caribbean. It is also possible to treat the novel with reference to nature and what it inspires for the white man and the native people. The author unfolds the white man's presumption that nature acts as a source of disease and evil and assumes the role of an enemy that operates against him. For the white man, animals in Trinidad as in other tropical lands also pose threat because of their potential to poison and sting. According to the colonial mindset, nature in the island needs to be controlled and civilized by altering its flora through botanic gardens. In the novel, the garden stands for the colonial ambition to defy nature with the help of certain devices which can preserve plants inside from harsh climate conditions outside. The garden becomes the symbol of taking possession of the island and is reflected as a space in which the Western political, temporal and spatial norms are pervasive.
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This thesis explores the history of botany as a global collection-based science by tracing parallels between utopian traditions and botanical collecting, from their sixteenth-century beginnings to the present. A range of botanical collections, such as gardens, herbaria and classification systems, have played a central role in the struggle to discover a global or universal scientific order for the chaotic, diverse and locally shaped kingdom of plants. These collections and utopia intersect historically, and are characterised by the same epistemology of collecting: the creation of order through confined collecting spaces or “no-place.” They are manipulations of space and time. Between chaos and order, both seek to make a whole from – often unruly – parts. The long history of botanical collecting is characterised by a degree of continuity of practice that is unusual in the sciences. For instance, the basic technology of the herbarium – preserving plants by mounting and labelling dried specimens on paper – has been in use for almost five centuries, from sixteenth-century Italy to ongoing digitisation projects. The format of the compilation thesis is well-suited to handling the historiographical challenge of tracing continuity and discontinuity with such a long chronological scope. The thesis is structured as a walled quadripartite garden, with the Kappa enclosing four research papers and an epilogue. The papers take a diachronic approach to explore different perspectives on botanical collections: botanical collecting in seventeenth-century Oxford, pressed plants in books that are not formally collections; and the digitisation of botanical collections. These accounts are all shaped by the world of books, text and publication, historically a male-dominated sphere. In order to acknowledge marginalisation of other groups and other ways of knowing plants, the epilogue is an explanation of an embroidered patchwork of plant-dyed fabric, which forms the cover of the thesis.
The sixteenth century witnessed an explosion of natural history images. From the publication of the Herbarum vivae eicones in 1532 to that of Carolus Clusius’ Rariorum plantarum historia in 1601, European presses churned out thousands of copies of hundreds of illustrated botanical books. While fewer zoological titles flowed from the presses, they too were lavishly illustrated. The Renaissance naturalists who wrote these books had at their disposal new graphic techniques, woodcut and engraving, that permitted the easy reproduction of identical pictorial images (Ivins [1953]). Woodcut in particular allowed writers and publishers to easily juxtapose text and image, presenting both written descriptions and artists’ renditions of strange and familiar flora and fauna (fig. 1). By the end of the century, both image and text were necessary components of a marketable natural history book.
During a period of horticultural transition in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England the use of plants as parkland and garden ornamentals became more common than the utilitarian approach to horticulture which had characterized the Middle Ages. This is shown in an examination of the uses made of trees and shrubs introduced into England before 1700. Horticultural innovation was affected by social, scientific, and esthetic pressures and by the increasing availability of alien species. The general source areas of the alien species are summarized, and the increasing importance of North America during the seventeenth century is noted. Details of woody North American plants introduced up to 1700 are given, and evidence is presented that this element encouraged horticultural innovation, especially in the changing significance of ornamental plants.
The profound interest in exotic plants during the late seventeenth century is shown not only through the example of the Amsterdam merchant widow Magdalena Poulle (1632-99), but also by the importance of networks by which it was possible to built up a collection of exotic plants. Because of her family ties, Poulle had close links with other important botanical collectors in the Dutch Republic, among which was her second cousin, Jan Commelin. As commissioner of the Hortus Medicus in Amsterdam, he had many contacts with important botanists such as Paul Hermann at Leiden as well as connections with networks in England. Commelin played an important part in the development of the new technical innovation of the tropical hothouse in 1684, in which it was possible to grow tropical plants. Soon after its development, the hothouse became a necessary status symbol and could be found in the gardens of other botanical collectors in the Republic, such as the one owned by Poulle. In the five years after 1680 when she became the owner of the ruin Gunterstein, Poulle built not only house and gardens, but also formed one of the most remarkable collections of plants in the Dutch Republic, thus earning her fame at both home and abroad with gardeners and botanists alike.
Gaspar Fagel's garden at Leeuwenhorst, near Noordwijkerhout, the Netherlands, was known for its collection of rare exotic plants from the Dutch colonies. Even though Fagel (1633-88) appears not to have started actively collecting plants until 1681, he had built up a collection of considerable importance by the time of his death. At the time, some of these plants were unique to Europe and, therefore, Leeuwenhorst was visited by famous botanists like Jacob Breyne, Paul Hermann, John Watts and Richard Richardson. They made lists of what they saw and/or took cuttings that ended up in various volumes of the Sloane Herbarium in the Natural History Museum, London. After Fagel's death, his collection of plants was sold to William III, who had them moved to Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex, where they formed the nucleus of Queen Mary's collection.
Boyle argued for a new epistemology, of the "matter of fact" that could be shown by experiment. The experiment would be witnessed, or virtually witnessed, by credible persons. Causes would not be sought beyond certain boundaries, but matters of fact could be attained. This new natural philosophy was opposed by Hobbes who has historically been eliminated from the story as the loser. But he attacked Boyle on attackable points - the imperfections of instruments (the air pump), and the lack of public space surrounding an experiment. In the aftermath of the English Civil War, as people were groping for new forms of political order, Robert Boyle built an air-pump to do experiments. Does the story of Roundheads and Restoration have something to do with the origins of experimental science? Schaffer and Shapin believed it does. Focusing on the debates between Boyle and his archcritic Thomas Hobbes over the air-pump, the authors proposed that "solutions to the problem of knowledge are solutions to the problem of social order." Both Boyle and Hobbes were looking for ways of establishing knowledge that did not decay into ad hominem attacks and political division. Boyle proposed the experiment as cure. He argued that facts should be manufactured by machines like the air-pump so that gentlemen could witness the experiments and produce knowledge that everyone agreed on. Hobbes, by contrast, looked for natural law and viewed experiments as the artificial, unreliable products of an exclusive guild. The new approaches taken in Leviathan and the Air-Pump have been enormously influential on historical studies of science. Shapin and Schaffer found a moment of scientific revolution and showed how key scientific givens--facts, interpretations, experiment, truth--were fundamental to a new political order. Shapin and Schaffer were also innovative in their ethnographic approach. Attempting to understand the work habits, rituals, and social structures of a remote, unfamiliar group, they argued that politics were tied up in what scientists did, rather than what they said. [Megan, STS 901-Fall 2006]
While all human communities must engage the natural world for survival, the degree and kind of legitimate intervention into the landscape has varied enormously historically and culturally ^ even just in the western tradition. Materialist traditions of analysis have suggested that social organization is deeply embedded in patterns of extracting and using natural resources, making what is done with land fundamentally important to social life. Cultural traditions of social explanation have made it clear that even material relations are cultural forms. Looking at where land becomes visibly enrolled into culture, then, is fundamental to social analysis ^ not just for doing cultural history but for analyzing regimes of power. To understand western culture and its e¡ects on world patterns of environmental mobilization, we need more research on what western relations to nature have been and why. This article is designed to address one strand of this history. I want to explore here how Christian humanist relations to nature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fed into the growth of territorial politics. I have argued elsewhere that territoriality was a tool of political culture during the late seventeenth century, and fundamental to the development of the modern state. 1 In this article, I consider why this cultural turn was made in this period, and how it a¡ected the growth of political institutions in the western tradition. Land and its proper management for the restoration of Eden (in Christian humanist terms for both Protestants and Catholics) provided a conceptual rationale for creating a more perfect built environment, and stimulated the search for techniques of land management and improvement that served as practical bases for this mission. The result was cultural justi¢cation for engineering the environment and using natural resources more systematically for social and political e¡ect. Doing this well was considered a mark of good leadership, and so territorial
The Swiss natural historian Johann Amman came to Russia in 1733 to take a position as professor of botany and natural history at the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. As part of the job, he corresponded, and exchanged plant specimens, with the English merchant collector Peter Collinson in London, and the Swedish scholar Carolus Linnaeus, among others. After briefly reviewing Amman's correspondence with these scholars and the growing commerce in exotic specimens of natural history, I explore how encyclopedias came to facilitate the exchange of zoological specimens in particular. I argue that, during the seventeenth century, a new genre of zoological encyclopedias appeared on the scene whose design was particularly well-suited for the purposes of identification, a key practice in long-distance exchanges.
We are accustomed to thinking of science and its findings as universal. After all, one atom of carbon plus two of oxygen yields carbon dioxide in Amazonia as well as in Alaska; a scientist in Bombay can use the same materials and techniques to challenge the work of a scientist in New York; and of course the laws of gravity apply worldwide. Why, then, should the spaces where science is done matter at all? David N. Livingstone here puts that question to the test with his fascinating study of how science bears the marks of its place of production. Putting Science in Its Place establishes the fundamental importance of geography in both the generation and the consumption of scientific knowledge, using historical examples of the many places where science has been practiced. Livingstone first turns his attention to some of the specific sites where science has been made—the laboratory, museum, and botanical garden, to name some of the more conventional locales, but also places like the coffeehouse and cathedral, ship's deck and asylum, even the human body itself. In each case, he reveals just how the space of inquiry has conditioned the investigations carried out there. He then describes how, on a regional scale, provincial cultures have shaped scientific endeavor and how, in turn, scientific practices have been instrumental in forming local identities. Widening his inquiry, Livingstone points gently to the fundamental instability of scientific meaning, based on case studies of how scientific theories have been received in different locales. Putting Science in Its Place powerfully concludes by examining the remarkable mobility of science and the seemingly effortless way it moves around the globe. From the reception of Darwin in the land of the Maori to the giraffe that walked from Marseilles to Paris, Livingstone shows that place does matter, even in the world of science.
Early Renaissance naturalists worked to identify the plans described in ancient sources. But during the middle decades of the sixteenth century, naturalists instead began to describe and name plans unknown to the ancients. They also divided nature much more finely, distinguishing species that their predecessors had lumped together. As a result, they created an information overload. Dictionaries of synonyms and local flora were invented in the early seventeenth century as partial solutions to this problem of information overload.
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