7 Into the Wild: Botanical Fieldwork in the Sixteenth Century

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Abstract

The earliest substantial evidence of botanical expeditions comes from the sixteenth century. This essay presents a chronological survey of botanical field research in continental Europe during the long sixteenth century, while more briefly discussing European explorations outside Europe. How, where and when did fieldwork manifest itself as a professional practice in Europe? Who was involved? What kind of expeditions did they undertake, and what were the main purposes (search for medicinal plants, collector’s items, rarities)? What were the main developments in the course of this century, and what does the remaining material (ranging from textual sources to herbaria and illuminated herbals) tell us about changing styles of reporting? The focus is on fieldwork as a practice, and as part of a more general “experimental” approach to nature study.


Naturalists in the Field

Collecting, Recording and Preserving the Natural World from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century

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