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The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in…

The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants (2005)

by Anna Pavord

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357346,219 (3.77)2



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I was expecting a book on the history of taxonomy for plants and what I got was a bunch of brief biographies on mostly medieval, mostly German, herbalists who had printed various volumes listing plants. There is very little in the way of discussion about how the plants are named or organized. It should have been titled A History of Publications About Plants. ( )
  jjwilson61 | May 6, 2014 |
The extent of my awareness of the naming of plants a few weeks ago was 'Isn't that something to do with Linnaeus?'. Well, this book has put me right in a big way. Linnaeus features only in the epilogue: the main body of the story takes the reader from a Greek, Theophrastus, in the fourth century BC to John Ray, an Englishman of the seventeenth century AD, in the search for the best way to classify plants. It sounds like a dry subject, but the personalities, struggles and inter-relationships of the key players are beautifully portrayed, with room for the personality of the author to permeate the text too. This work is scholarly and accessible and sumptuously illustrated with coloured depictions of plants, maps and portraits. A treasure of a volume. ( )
2 vote AJBraithwaite | Jun 3, 2008 |
Great book! Amazing illustrations.
The author is very good at telling a long history of over 2000 years on how the modern standard taxonomy was created for all plants and all living things.
For some reason Anna Pavord likes to divide all the historical characters in "good guys" and "bad guys". May be it is true, but sometime reading the book I got the impression of watching an Hollywood movie. As in every respectable film, the good guys at the end will prevail.

The battle is not yet over! Take a look at Wikipedia (I'm talking about the English version) and you will see that the scientific notation is not used as a standard way to name plants. For reason I completely ignore Americans still prefer the ambiguous local notation over the scientific one (not surprisingly, they still discussing about creationism...). ( )
2 vote folini | Feb 4, 2008 |
Showing 3 of 3
A proper understanding of plants would have revolutionised medicine and the understanding of the world, but for thousands of years the subject was spurned. An eloquent champion for this esoteric subject, Pavord also knows that her narrative embraces far more than just plant names. Science's move towards a system of universal classification is representative of humanity's struggle to discern order in the universe.
added by simaqian | editThe Independent, Toby Green (Nov 18, 2005)
She's an excellent guide, sometimes a little bossy, a little longwinded, like most guides, but she knows her stuff, and loves it. And the scenery is marvellous: dozens and dozens of beautifully reproduced pages from manuscripts painted by Persian scholars or Anglo-Saxon monks, delicate fifth-century herbaries, glorious illustrations from 18th-century books - some naive, some exquisite, all seductive. Well printed, well bound, better proofread than most books these days, and full of lovely pictures, The Naming of Names is a superb object to display on the coffee table. Its clear and erudite text makes it a great deal more than that.
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To Colin Hamilton and Kulgin Duval,

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Traces the search for order in the natural world, a search that for hundreds of years occupied some of the most brilliant minds in Europe, reaching its apex during the Renaissance. From Athens in the third century BC, through Constantinople, Venice, the medical school at Salerno to the universities of Pisa and Padua, the journey involves a world full of intrigue and intensely competitive egos, from Europe to the culture of Islam, the first expeditions to the Indies and the first settlers in the New World. Gradually, over a long period, plants assumed identities and artists painted pictures of them. Plants acquired the two-part names that show how they are related to other plants. But who began all this work, and how was it done?--From publisher description.… (more)

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