HERBAL SPECIMEN ALBUM -- Erbario di Bottanica. [Bracciano?: 1794-1835].
2 volumes, 2° (336 x 226mm). Approximately 335 pressed botanical specimens on 180 pages (pp.109-116, 183-4 blank but numbered, lacking pp.181-2, possibly blank), arranged according to Tournefort classification. Each specimen with manuscript caption giving Latin name and its medicinal use in Italian, written in a late 18th-early 19th-century Italian hand, 6-leaf index laid into first volume (stained). Two watermarks in the paper occur, both Bracciano. (First 2 leaves of second volume torn with slight loss, occasional worming and spotting, some specimens deteriorating, loose or missing.) Contemporary paper wrappers with MS. title (slightly worn and stained, some sheets loose).
A RARE SURVIVAL OF AN ITALIAN BOTANICAL SPECIMEN BOOK, dating from 1794-1835, and possibly compiled by the unidentified "I M I", whose initials are on the first page. Given the number of specimens, their careful identification, and their medicinal uses, these albums clearly were made by a serious student of botany and its medical application. The accompanying index is a further indication that they were created as a valuable reference work.
It is likely that these albums record or were associated with a grand Italian garden in or near Bracciano (possibly Castello Odelaschi), similar to other celebrated 18th-century gardens. Louis XIV established a botanic garden at the Petit Trianon at Versailles devoted to medicinal plants, as did Carl Theodor, Elector of the Palatinate, at Mannheim in the gardens of the Academia Theodoro-Palatina under the botanist Friedrich Casimir Medicus. Philip Miller at the Chelsea Physic Garden was assiduously compiling similar Herbaria of dried specimens in the mid-18th century which survive at the British Museum (Natural History), and an album of pressed flowers compiled by the eminent botanist John Fothergill at Upton, Stratford about 1770 was sold in our rooms on 27 April 1994 (lot 6).
The compiler of the present albums has adopted the Tournefort classification, a system also followed until 1774 at the Jardin du Roi, when it was modified by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu. The nomenclature, however, is Linnaean, further suggesting a serious botanist, who is familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of various systems and has combined them to best suit his purposes. (2)