SINCLAIR, George (1786-1834). Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis: or, an account of the results of experiments on the produce and nutritive qualities of different grasses, and other plants, used as the food of the more valuable domestic animals: instituted by John Duke of Bedford. London: B. McMillan, 1816.
2° (485 x 304mm). 35 samples of seeds mounted on 14 leaves, 123 dried plant specimens mounted on blank numbered sheets, some with contemporary hand-colouring, each with two printed title-slips pasted in, one with the Latin binomial, the second with the common english name. (Without the plan found in some copies, light offsetting of specimens onto text leaves, the final specimen with portion lacking and without the label giving the common name.) Contemporary dark green half morocco gilt, the spine in six compartments, lettered in the second and third, top edge gilt (neat repairs to joints and corners). Provenance: Sir Humphrey Davy (inscription noting that Sir Humphrey left the work to:) -- Lady Davy (inscription, noting that Lady Davy left the work to:) -- Lord De Mauley (inscription dated 'Hatherop, [Gloucestershire,] 1854') -- The Surveyor's Institution Library (bookplate noting purchase in November 1897).
SIR HUMPHREY DAVY'S COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, with actual specimens, of Sinclair's highly important catalogue of grasses and results of 'arguably the world's first ecological experiment'. Sinclair was botanist and gardener to the Duke of Bedford. In an attempt, using 'the simple chemical process' suggested by Davy, to work out 'the nutritive powers of the different grasses' Sinclair planted up 242 plots at Woburn Abbey. Each of the plots contained a different combination of soils, grasses and herbs. The experiment has recently been identified as that referred to by Darwin in his On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection (1859). Sinclair's findings have been cited as providing 'the intellectual link between biodiversity and ecosystem biology first made by Darwin' (A. Hector & R. Hooper, writing in Science, January 25 2002). BM(NH) IV, p. 1931; Nissen BBI 1850 (citing 122 plates); Stafleu & Cowan V, 12.022 (citing copies with 121 or 122 plates). Together with the first octavo and second octavo editions of the same work. (3)