Museo di piante rare della Sicilia, Malta, Corsica, Italia, Piemonte, e Germania
Historians of science know the work of Paolo Boccone (1633–1704), a Sicilian naturalist who traveled throughout Europe observing plants both in the field and in specimen collections. His work on Sicily, Malta, and Italy was well regarded by the scientific community and remained useful to those developing new systems of taxonomy in the eighteenth century. Born in Palermo, he trained as a doctor in Padua, and worked as a botanist for Ferdinando II de Medici. Later in life, Boccone entered the Cistercian order and changed his name to Silvio.
In a 1698 review published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, John Ray noted two flaws in Boccone’s 1697 Museo di piante rare: “the one want of Method, the other of Descriptions.” These would seem to be rather significant defects, but in fact the book—with 130 engravings of plants, many of which had not been cataloged before—was well-received. Boccone’s previous publication on plants, Icones & Descriptiones rariorum plantarum Siciliae, Melitae, Galliae & Italiae (1674), was a significant contribution to the study of botany, and he is also remembered for his early contributions to geology.
Boccone is a well-documented figure. He was memorialized with a genus of plants (Bocconia) named in his honor and has entries in the Cleveland Herbal Collection bibliography, the Hunt Botanical Catalogue, Stafleu and Cowan’s Taxonomic Literature, and others. This contrasts with the mystery of Aloysio Cabrini, the author of the next exhibit item, dating to 1791: hand-drawn copies of nearly every illustration from the 1697 Museo.
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