Iterative books: Posthumous publishing in eighteenth-century botany – Bettina Dietz, 2020

Abstract:  The growing number of known plants, and the need repeatedly to correct their names and their taxonomic attributions, demanded strategies for combining the static nature of a printed book with the fluctuating nature of the information it contained. From the second half of the seventeenth century botanists increasingly relied on publishing multiple updated editions of a book instead of attempting to correct, polish, and thus delay the appearance of a manuscript until, in the author’s opinion, it was finished. Provisional by nature, iterative books offered a solution. They were transient, open-ended and open to intervention, whether by one or multiple authors. Taking as an example the posthumous publication of orphaned material and manuscripts, a widespread phenomenon in eighteenth-century botany, this essay will focus on the sequence of iterative books that were published during the first half of the eighteenth century, based on the herbaria and papers left behind by the German botanist Paul Hermann (1646–95).

 

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