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LINNAEUS, Carl (1707–1778)

Musa Cliffortiana florens Hartecampi 1736 prope Harlemum.
Lugduni Batavorum [Leiden] 1736.

Bound with:
Vaillant, Sebastien, Sermo de structura florum, 1718, and Külbel, Johann Adam, Fertilitatis terrarum, 1743, for which see separate entries.

First edition, printed in a very limited number of copies for presentation purposes. Early issue, without the two extra preliminary leaves with verses by Jo. Alex. Röell and Henr. Snakenburg, and with the plates in the first state before the addition of the names of the artist (Martin Hoffmann) and engraver (A. van der Laan). The plates are not coloured. There are two copies of Musa in the Linnean Society, one marked in Linnaeus’ own hand with "Exemplar Auctoris", which has the plates in this first state. The second, the author’s interleaved copy, has the first plate in its first state, and the second plate in second state. At the end of that copy is a manuscript draft of the verses by Röell, with significant text variants, and an entirely different set of manuscript verses by J. H. Jungius, not the Snakenburg verses as printed; furthermore the two leaves of the latter are inserted loose, as a bifolium and have never been bound in. It seems clear there must have been a revision of the prelims during printing, why our copy can reasonably be claimed as an early issue. After Linnaeus had graduated for his doctor’s degree in medicine at the University of Harderwijk in the Netherlands, and seen the first edition of his Systema Naturae in print, he met the man who was to become his greatest partron and benefactor: George Clifford, one of the Directors of the Dutch East India Company. In September 1735 Linnaeus was employed by this wealthy man to classify and put in order the specimens in his herbarium, to supervise the hot-houses and prepare an account of the exotic plants in Clifford’s botanical garden, one of the greatest in western Europe. As a doctor he also had to take care of his patron’s health. In one of Clifford’s hot-houses was a ’pisang’, or banana. No one in the Netherlands had ever succeeded in getting a banana to flower, still less to bear fruit; but within four months of his arrival at Hartecamp Linnaeus had coaxed the plant into flower. This miracle worked by planting it in a rich soil, keeping it quite dry for some weeks, and then deluging it with water in imitation of tropical storms. Distinguished botanists flocked to Hartecamp from all over the country. Linnaeus hastely produced a treatise, Musa Cliffortiana, illustrated with two large engravings, which was his first botanical monograph. In the text Linnaeus discusses whether the banana could be the ”forbidden tree” in the Garden of Eden. At a later date Linnaeus was successful to raise bananas even at Uppsala. Its fruit was sent to the royal family, who were probably the only people in Sweden to taste bananas before the Swedish Banana Company started to import them shortly before World War I.

Collation: Pp (4) title & dedication to Clifford, dated Leiden, 20 Febr. 1736, 46, (2). With 2 large folding engraved plates.

Binding: Contemporary vellum.

Provenance: A previous owner has listed the three works on the fly-leaf and added 18 lines of comment from Charles Alston’s anti-Linnaean work Tirocinium botanicum (Edinburgh 1753). There is no obvious indication of the identity of this savant, but he must have been close to Linnaeus.

References: Soulsby 275; Hulth p. 20; Taxonomic Literature 4712; Uggla, Arvid J. 'Linné och bananen’ in Svenska Linné-sällskapets årsskrift, XLII (1959), pp 79-88; Stafleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans, pp 131-133; Blunt, The Compleat Naturalist. A Life of Linnaeus, pp 107-08. Waller 11634.

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