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a botanical alphabet
 

image

DAAAAAAAAAAZY / Lichen Candelarius

ex Jean Pierre Bergeret (1751-1813, *). Phytonomatotechnie universelle; c’est-à-dire, l’art de donner aux plantes des noms tirés de leurs caractères; nouveau systême au moyen duquel on peut de soi-même, sans le secours d’aucun livre, nommer toutes les plantes qui croissent sur la surface de notre globe ... A la publication de ce systême on joint les figures, les descriptions les plus méthodiques, l’analyse, les propriétés, les vertus, l’usage, l’étymologie & la synonymie de toutes les plantes de la France.
Ouvrage proposé par souscription / par M. Bergeret.
Paris, Chez l’Auteur, Didot le jeune, Poisson, 1783-84. (this from Cornell copy)

Bergeret’s Systême Phytonomatotechnique involved 13 tables (La Fructification. Le Pistil. Les Etamines. La Corolle, etc), each listing features under those 13 headings, and each of those features identified by a letter A-Z. The name of a plant would be derived from the appropriate letter, chosen in sequence from those 13 tables. (In the case of Lichen Candelarius, the repetition of 10 A’s indicates that nothing (aucune) was needed from the terms provided for the second through eleventh positions.)

Theoretically, albeit impractically, the name would provide a full description of the plant, in a mnemonic form. One just needed to have memorized the table, to either assign a name to a plant, or picture the plant from its name.

Bergeret’s phytonomatotechnical system is described (and dismissed as the worst of all possible systems) by

  1. Dan H. Nicholson,A History of Botanical Nomenclature, in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 78:1 (1991): 33-56.
  2. See also
    Sandra Knapp et al., Stability or stasis in the names of organisms: the evolving codes of nomenclature, in Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B (2004) 359: 611-622; and
  3. fascinating (and delightfully written) work by Sara Scharf, including her
    Multiple Independent Inventions of a Non-Functional Technology: Combinatorial Descriptive Names in Botany, 1640-1830, in Spontaneous Generations 2:1 (2008) here

Bergeret’s engravings, like his phytonomatotechnical idea, are beautiful.
 

8 October 2012
tags: J. P. Bergeret; codes; lichen; nomenclature, phytonomatotechnie universelle; taxonomy; combinatorial language