Pinax theatri botanici.

Basle, sumptibus & typis Ludovici Regis, 1623.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp (xxiv), 522, (xxiv). *-3*⁴, A-Z⁴, Aa-Zz⁴, AA-YY⁴, ZZ1. Roman letter, some Italic. Small woodcut printer’s device on t-p, floriated woodcut initials, grotesque woodcut head and tail pieces, typographical ornaments, early ms. inscription ‘MW’ at foot of title. Light browning ( poor quality paper) small paper flaw to catchword of Ss2. marginal loss to head of first four leaves, just altering a couple of letters on title-page (early restoration in manuscript) and running title of A3, the odd marginal mark or spot. A very good copy in contemporary polished vellum over boards, a little soiled,

The rare first edition of the first systematic botanical nomenclature, and a landmark in the study of natural history. The “Pinax” was the magnum opus of Gaspard Bauhin (1560-1624), the great Swiss naturalist and Professor of Anatomy & Botany at Basel. The organisation of some six-thousand plants was exhaustive, and although the classification of plants into, for example grasses, shrubs and trees, was far from original, it was Bauhin’s concise natural descriptions and the separation of plants by genera and species that proved both novel and significant to the progress of botanical study, paving the way for the pure binomial system of Linnaeus’ “Systema Naturae” (Leiden, 1735). Bauhin (1560-1624), professor of anatomy and botany at Basel, began a new era in botany, distinguishing it as a science in its own right and abandoning its herbal-medical associations, by creating a modern natural classification based on morphology.

“The progress of botanical science … reaches its highest point in the labours of Gaspard Bauhin, as regards both the naming and describing of the individual plants and their classification according to likeness of habit … A still higher value must be set on the fact, that in Gaspard Bauhin the distinction between species and genus is fully and consciously carried out; every plant has with him a generic and specific name, and this binary nomenclature which Linnaeus is usually thought to have founded, is almost perfectly maintained by Bauhin, especially in the ‘Pinax'” (Sachs).

Bauhin also describes on page pp. 24-26 “Frumentum Indicum” which constitute extremely early references to North and South American plants, including maize and cannabis from Peru, Brazil, Florida, and Virginia. Also of great interest is the list of approximately 135 names of authors and hundreds of their botanical works, making this “Nomina Authorum” the second earliest bibliography of botanical literature, according to Besterman (World Bibliography, col. 940).

“‘The world of Botany illustrated’ marks a most important scientific advance in Botany. Great confusion still reigned in botanical nomenclature, since different names had been given to the same species by different writers, each constructing his own system. .. His Pinax describes six thousand species: it is the beginning of a modern ‘natural’ classification based on morphology. Bauhinus realized the convenience of the binominal nomenclature which later became a central feature of Linné’s system. He descisively differentiated genera and species, giving names to genera, but without descriptions, whilst distinguishing species by diagnostic phrases.Bauhinus’s book is still our most important source for the investigation of the botanical literature preceeding him, and from it the way leads through Ray to Linné” PMM 121

Pritzel 509. Sachs, p. 33. PMM 121. Jackson 28: “One of the most celebrated books of the early botanists; it is a synonymic list of the entire number of plants then known. Linnaeus quotes it throughout his Species Plantarum.” Alden 623/16.


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