Reconstructing Order: The Spatial Arrangements of Plants in the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden University in Its First Years

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The University of Leiden featured one of the first botanical gardens north of the Alps, which was fully equipped in 1594. The first three persons responsible for the garden—Carolus Clusius, Dirk Outgaertsz. Cluyt and Pieter Pauw—had to distribute the plants and herbs into the different garden beds. The logic behind the spatial order they chose gives insight into various approaches on plant classification in the early modern period. It is possible to reconstruct and analyze the order of plants using catalogues from different years. These catalogues show the changes in the distribution of plants under the prefecture of several natural historians. The catalogues themselves are an interesting historical source, showing a way to transfer a garden and its plants into a printed counterpart. In the early modern period, the classification of plants was not yet strictly defined. Also, in the botanical garden of the University of Leiden, we do not find a single, stern systematic approach to ordering the plants, but rather a number of different ones. Plants were classified according to their virtues and to empirically comprehensible criteria, but also according to their beauty or even to the chapters of an herbal. The reconstruction of the distribution of the plants shows those different approaches to ordering the flora and casts light on the development of botany.

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At the end of the sixteenth century, the English lawyer and natural philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626) began to fantasize about the locations for knowledge. The Gesta Grayorum (1594), a court revel performed before Queen Elizabeth I and attributed to Bacon, described an imaginary research facility containing “a most perfect and general library” and “a spacious, wonderful garden” filled with wild and cultivated plants and surrounded by a menagerie, aviary, freshwater lake, and saltwater lake. Spaces for living nature were complemented by a museum of science, art, and technology – “a goodly huge cabinet” housing artifacts (“whatsoever the hand of man by exquisite art or engine has made rare in stuff”), natural oddities (“whatsoever singularity, chance, and the shuffle of things hath produced”), and gems, minerals, and fossils (“whatsoever Nature has wrought in things that want life and may be kept”). The fourth and final component was a space in which to test nature, “a still-house, so furnished with mills, instruments, furnaces, and vessels as may be a palace fit for a philosopher’s stone.” The totality of these facilities, Bacon concluded, would be “a model of the universal nature made private.” This statement suggested a new idea of empiricism that privileged human invention and demonstration over pure observation and celebrated the communal aspects of observing nature over the heroic efforts of the lone observer. Nature had to be reconstructed within a microcosm, creating an artificial world of knowledge in which scholars prodded, dissected, and experimented with nature in order to know it better.
This study focuses on the life and work of the sixteenth-century botanist Carolus Clusius in the context of court culture. Before accepting a position at the university in Leiden at the age of 67, Clusius spent a large part of his career at the courts of emperors, princes and aristocrats in Middle-Europe. There he met a wealthy and well-educated elite, who shared his passion for plants, gardens and travelling. But he also encountered a rich diversity of interests and approaches regarding the study of plants. These differences were used by Clusius to establish his authority as a professional botanist and to determine the standards for the proper scientific study of plants.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Harvard University, 1975. "Annex: 'Renaissance humanism and botany, ' Annals of science 33 (1976), 519-542 [and] 'Publishing scholarly books in the sixteenth century, ' Scholarly publishing, April 1983, 259-274." Includes bibliographical references (p. 261-283) and index.
Auch im Buchh. beim Dt. Kunstverl., Berlin, als: Kunstwiss. Studien. Bd 24. Karlsruhe, TeH., Diss., 1939.
A description of 17th century anatomical activity at the major Dutch university in a cultural context This study offers a history of the Leiden anatomical theatre in the first century of its existence; who were the scientists working there in the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age. What was the motivation of these scholars for studying and demonstrating the human body? Was it purely medical or were their other - more philosophical - questions at stake? Besides a cultural historical account of the anatomical theatre the dissertation also offers the histories of other centres of anatomical activity in 17th century Leiden: the Collegium Medico Practicum at the Caecilia Hospital, and Leiden's surgeons guild.
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