Paolo Boccone and the visual communication of pre-Linnean botany. A comparison between his Leiden herbarium, Paris autoprint and published Icones (1674).


Synthesys Fellow 2017, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, P.O. Box 9517, 2300, RA Leiden, the Netherlands; Van de Sande Fellow 2017, Scaliger Institute, Leiden University Library, Postbus 9501, 2300, RA Leiden, the Netherlands. Electronic address: [Email]


This article addresses the development of visual practices in early modern Botany by focusing on the diverse strategies of graphic representation of plant species. Naturalis Biodiversity Center holds a historic herbarium of 169 sheets with specimens of Mediterranean plants collected by the Sicilian Botanist Paolo Boccone (1633-1704). Part of Boccone's dried specimens served as model for the etchings published in his Icones et descriptiones rariorum plantarum (1674) and part of them were used as matrix for at least one album of botanical autoprints kept in Paris. The exceptional survival of the three collections: the original dried specimens, their autoprint impressions and the etched illustrations of the book, offers a unique insight in the material and intellectual issues addressed in the process of visual representation of plants in early modern Botany. Here we present the first scientific comparison of these three valuable 17th century botanical collections. Visual comparison revealed that the Leiden collection provided 64 specimens to Icones, while 44 specimens show a perfect matching with the autoprint impressions. In nine cases the Leiden specimens appear both in the autoprints and in the Icones, thus showing the complete process of visual translation of the plant preliminary to its wider circulation in the scientific community.


Arnoldus Seyen,Botanical illustrations,Hieronymus Van Beverningh,Historic herbarium,Mediterranean plants,Sicily,