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Boccone Museum rariorum plantarum: nominibus linnaei specificis

Boccone Museum rariorum plantarum: nominibus linnaei specificis

This 1791 manuscript, authored by Aloysio Cabrini, consists of hand-drawn copies of nearly every image from Boccone’s Museo di piante rare of 1697. Many of the illustrations are accompanied by Linnaean taxonomy, an eighteenth-century development that revolutionized the study of natural history. In addition, the volume has at least sixteen original images of plants that had not been included in the earlier publication.

Who was Aloysio Cabrini? His knowledge of (and passion for) botany is apparent in his dedication to this project. His introduction and notes, written in Latin, suggest a familiarity with the language and work of botany in the eighteenth century. Cabrini’s region seems to have been the area east of the Apennine Mountains, between Ancona and Pescara on Italy’s eastern coast, perhaps based in the city of Macerata. In his introduction he mentions that he borrowed a copy of Boccone’s Museo from a doctor, and believed that he could improve it by introducing information from Linnaeus. 

Some of the plants he adds are common Mediterranean flowers such as the Calendula officinalis (or marigold) and the Rosa gallica. To others, such as Aristolochia longa vera officinarum, Cabrini ascribes medical uses. He recommends Assarum officinarum as a substitute for Ipecachuana [sic] succedanea, an emetic. He recommends both Uva ursi and Vita-Idaea (perhaps Vaccinium vitis-idaea, or lingonberry) for cases of “stone.” This group of medicinal additions to Boccone’s Museo suggests that this may be the work of an eighteenth-century pharmacist. Cabrini observed some of the “new” plants himself, but at least one appears to have been copied from G. C. Oeder’s Flora Danica. Another (the Rosa gallica) is clearly the work of a different hand, on different paper than the rest of the book.

Cabrini’s manuscript copies only the printed tables from the Museo, omitting Boccone’s text. The addition of classification information to the images, as well as the occasional addition of new details—often the flower or the calyx—required more space, so that the plants from one printed plate can easily occupy several leaves in Cabrini’s manuscript. The new details are significant given the prominent use of flowers and sepals in eighteenth-century systems of plant identification. 

Cabrini concludes his introduction with a lament about his lack of a patron as well as his “fata adversa.” If he was indeed based in Macerata, he was at a significant distance from the Italian hubs of botanical research, such as Pisa and Padua. Perhaps he had hoped to publish his additions to Boccone’s book, but found himself stymied by the complicated systems of scientific publication and patronage in eighteenth-century Europe.   

 
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