Co-authoring tea in early modern natural history

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Abstract

This paper addresses distributed authorship and the co-authoring of taxonomy in early modern botany. Very few European botanists in the seventeenth and eighteenth century had ever seen a living or dried specimen of the tea plant – Linnaeus’s relentless attempts at procuring a tea bush in the 1750s and 60s document its elusiveness. As a consequence those who included the plant in their publications had little to work with apart from a few descriptions and illustrations in the botanical literature and sparse information that they gathered from their correspondence with other botanists. In response to what was perceived as chronic lack of information not only on the tea plant but on many others as well, early modern botanists developed a networked writing and publishing mode that acknowledged the preliminary nature of their publications and facilitated distributed authorship to correct and update them when new relevant information became available.

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