LINNAEUS, Carolous (1707-1778). Systema naturae, sive regna tria naturae systematice proposita per classes, ordines, genera, & species. Leiden: Johann Wilhelm de Groot for Theodor Haak, 1735.
Broadsheets (526-535 x 430mm). 7 leaves of Dutch paper watermarked with a crowned fleur-de-lys with and without pendant '4 WR' and countermarked 'IV' [cf. Piccard 1362 for a very similar mark, Nuremberg 1755] bearing 12 pages of text including 2 full-page and 2 double-page letterpress tables, and a full-page letterpress 'Clavis systematis sexualis' table, title and final leaf versos blank. (Title expertly strengthened at fore-edge, evidence of earlier folds with short repair at two, one neatly repaired tear just into text, a few tiny marginal tears, light marginal dust-soiling or browning.) Modern blue buckram. Provenance: Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh.
FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL WORKS IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE. Contained in these few precious leaves is essentially "the inauguration of the classification of plants and animals" (Grolier/Horblit) which "has had few parallels in the history of science" (DSB). Linnaeus compiled this work "as a first outline of what in its further development became the foundation of botanical and zoological classification systems" (PMM). The work was printed and published between 9 and 13 December 1735, at the expense of Jan Frederik Gronovius and Isaac Lawson, for private circulation. Their letter to Sir Hans Sloane, 19 December 1735, presenting one copy to the Royal Society and another to the Botanical Society, explains that Linnaeus 'was so kind to communicate to us his Systema Naturae, which we sent to the press at our own expense, with an intention only to have a few copys; but at the request of several friends we were determined to communicate it fully (judging it might be agreable) to the Lerned world' (reproduced in Soulsby, plate 5).
'He divided the flowering plants (angiosperms) into twenty-three classes based on the number, situation, and relation of the stamens, e.g. Monandria with one stamen, Diandria with two stamens, etc., and these in turn he divided into orders based mostly on the number of styles or stigmas ... Linnaeus's major zoological divisions were Mammalia (headed by Homo sapiens), Aves (birds), Amphibia (including also reptiles), Pisces (fish), Insects (including also crustaceans), and Vermes (including also molluscs)' (W.T. Stearn in: T.Williams A Biographical Dictionary of Scientists p.332). From 1735 until the edition of 1766-68, the Systema naturae was revised and expanded by Linnaeus himself. The 12-page first edition grew through twelve subsequent editions during the author's lifetime, the last of these swelling to 2,374 pages.
A LARGE COPY, RETAINING SEVERAL DECKLE EDGES. Dibner Heralds 27; Grolier Science 68a; PMM 192; Pritzel 5404; Soulsby 39; Stafleu and Cowan 4709.