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VAILLANT, Sébastien (1669–1722)

Discours sur la structure des fleurs, leurs differences et l’usage de leurs parties; Prononcé a l’ouverture du Jardin Royal de Paris, le Xe. jour du mois de Juin 1717. Et l’Etablissement de trois nouveaux genres de plantes, l’Araliastrum, la Sherardia, la Boerhaavia. Avec la description de deux nouvelles plantes rapportées au dernier genre. / Sermo de structura florum, horum differentia, usuque partium eos constituentium, habitus in ipsis auspiciis demonstrationis publicæ stirpium in Horto regio Parisino, X° Junii 1717. Et constitutio trium novorum generum plantarum, Araliastri, Sherardiæ, Boerhaaviæ. Cum descriptione duarum plantarum novarum generi postremo inscriptarum.
A Leide, chez Pierre van der Aa, 1718.

Bound with:
Linnaeus, Carolus; Musa Cliffortiana, 1736. Külbel, Johannes Adam; Fertilitatis terrarum, 1743. See separate entries.

First edition of this important lecture on the sexuality of plants read by Vaillant at the opening of the Jardin Royal in Paris on June 10, 1717. The lecture is followed by a communication from Vaillant to Boerhaave, in which he proposes three new genera of plants. The book was reprinted in 1727 and 1728. The great rarity of this first edition is certified by Junk in Rara Historico-Naturalia, who had never seen it. This work broke new ground in stressing the importance of sexuality in the classification of flowering plants. Linnaeus was doubtless influenced by Vaillant’s views as he heard of them in Rothman’s leectures when he was a school boy at Växjö. Vaillant “was early convinced of the correctness of Camerarius’ doctrine of the sexual function of flowers (De sexu plantarum epistola, 1694). At the opening of the garden at a new site in 1717 he used the occasion to give an address entitled Discours sur la structure des fleurs which created something of a sensation, particularly among the students. Vaillant gave an exposition of the sexual function of flowers which was rendered vivid and a little shocking by his use of vernacular terminology in comparing the stamens to the penis and testicles of animals, and by humorous references to the innocent sexual pleasures of flowers. In spite of this, it was a serious discussion and presentation of the new theory, and played a considerable part in securing its general acceptance. In addition the work emphasized the need for a terminology of the floral parts . . . At the suggestion of William Sherard, and with the help of Boerhaave, the French text of Vaillant’s lecture, together with a Latin translation, was published in Leiden in 1718” (A.G. Morton).

Collation: Pp (4) titles, 155, (1) errata. Titles (in French and Latin) printed in red and black with engraved vignette.

Binding: Collective volume in contemporary vellum.

References: Hunt 446; Pritzel 9654; A.G. Morton, History of Botanical Science (1981), pp 241-2; Sachs, History of Botany, 2nd impression (1906) pp 397-8; Rousseau, Jacques 'Sébastien Vaillant. An outstanding 18th century botanist’ in Regnum Vegetabili, 71 (1970), pp 195-228, with extensive notes on sources; DSB XIII, pp 553-4; Ramsbottom, John: 'S.Vaillant’s Discours sur la structure des fleurs. (1718).’ in Journ. Soc. Bibl. Nat. Hist. 4 (1963), pp 194-6; Guédés, Michel, 'Les trois émissions du Discours sur la Structure des Fleurs de S. Vaillant (1718, 1727, 1728).’ in Archives of Natural History, 11 (1983), pp 195-7. Waller 11758.

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