The Historia Plantarum Generalis of John Ray, Book I : a translation and commentary
After a preface explaining the origins of my interest in John Ray, and the general principles on which I propose to proceed, the thesis consists, firstly, of a brief account of Ray's life and work, with particular attention to the state of botanical studies in his day, and of his main contributions to them. The main part of the thesis (Volumes 1 and 2) then takes the form of a commentary on Book I of the Historia Plantarum Generalis and the three subsequent tables interpolated into Volume I at the suggestion of Dr. Tancred Robinson; the third volume of the thesis consists of my translation and of a photocopy of the text. Since Ray lived before Linnus, to whom we owe our modern binomial system of nomenclature, and because of the confused state of botanical nomenclature up to Ray's time, much of the commentary consists of the identification of the plants mentioned by Ray as examples of various botanical and horticultural processes. However, I also discuss the accuracy of Ray's observations and explanations of the various processes in the light of modern scientific views, and assess their place in the development of botanical science. Ray's sources and his use of them would make an interesting thesis in itself. Since, however, to comment upon them all in detail would have made an already lengthy thesis even lengthier, I have singled out for detailed analysis the material cited by Ray from his contemporary Malpighi and the first century A.D. Roman writer, Pliny the Elder. Brief biographies of all Ray's sources, both ancient and modern, are also given. Finally, I have included diagrams where I felt this would help to clarify what Ray says.