Tinkering with Nomenclature. Textual Engineering, Co-Authorship, And Collaborative Publishing in Eighteenth-Century Botany

Bettina Dietz

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperpeer-review

Abstract

This paper explores how the messiness of eighteenth-century botanical practice that resulted from a constant lack of information generated a culture of collaborative publishing. Given the amount of information required for an accurate plant description let alone a taxonomic attribution, eighteenth-century botanists and their readers were fully aware of the preliminary nature of their publications. They openly acknowledged the necessity of updating them in the near future, and developed collaborative strategies for doing so efficiently. One of these was to make new material available to the botanical community as quickly as possible in a first printed version, while leaving the process of completing and correcting it to be undertaken by stages at a later date. Authors updated their own writings in cycles of iterative publishing, most famously Carl Linnaeus, but this could also be done by others – in the context of this paper by the consecutive editors of the unpublished papers of the German botanist Paul Hermann (1646-1695) who became his co-authors in the process. Hermann had spent several years in Ceylon as a medical officer of the Dutch V.O.C. before he returned to the Netherlands in 1680 with an abundant collection of plants and notes. When he died almost all of this material, eagerly awaited by the botanical community, was still unpublished. As the information economy of botany, by then a discipline aiming for the global registration and classification of plants, tried to prevent the loss of precious data, two botanists – William Sherard (1650-1728) and Johannes Burman (1706-1779) - consecutively took on the task of ordering, updating, and publishing Hermann’s manuscripts. The main goal of these cycles of iterative publishing was, on the one hand, to add relevant plants and, on the other, to identify, augment, and correct synonyms – different names that various authors had given to the same plant over time. As synonyms often could not be identified unambiguously, they had to be adjusted repeatedly, and additional synonyms, which would, in turn, require revision in the course of time, had to be inserted. The process of posthumously publishing botanical manuscripts provides insights into the successive cycles of accumulating and reorganizing information that had to be gone through. As a result, synonyms were networked names that were co-authored by the botanical community. Co-authorship and a culture of collaborative publishing compensated for the messiness of botanical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2019
Event16th International Congress on Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science and Technology, CLMPST 2019: Bridging Across Academic Cultures - Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 5 Aug 201910 Aug 2019
https://clmpst2019.flu.cas.cz/ (Conference website)
https://clmpst2019.flu.cas.cz/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BoA_CLMPST2019_web.pdf (Book of Abstracts)

Conference

Conference16th International Congress on Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science and Technology, CLMPST 2019
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
CityPrague
Period5/08/1910/08/19
Internet address

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