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I have divided this work into three parts. In the First Part, I have given a pretty extensive DELINEATION OF THE PLANT, beginning with the root, and ending with the various organs of the fructification. The terminology, or nomenclature, of all these parts is amply detailed; indeed, I fear much more amply than may seem agreeable to some of my readers. But as one of the great objects of the botanist is the correct or discriminative description of plants, and as such a description cannot be given without the use of an appropriate language (such as the modern botanical language, unquestionably, is), I shall offer no apology for my haying taken up so much time in the mere description of the various parts of the vegetable. If those, whose object is a more superficial acquaintance with the study of plants, should feel somewhat fatigued, in pursuing me through such a laboured range of words, I am persuaded, on the other hand, that some of my readers will feel a regret, that this terminology is not still more extensive.
But, in this first part of the work, I have not confined myself entirely to the technical portion of my subject. Various circumstances relative to the physiology, the economy, the uses, &c., of vegetables, are likewise, introduced. And although some of these circumstances might, perhaps, with more propriety, have been reserved for the second part, I flatter myself they will not appear entirely out of place, where I have introduced them. I am, at least, persuaded, that they will serve to amuse and relieve the reader, in the midst of that fatigue, and, possibly, disgust, which the learning of a
new language is too well calculated to excite. The classical reader will not, I think, be displeased at my frequent references to passages in the works of the Roman writers, particularly their poets. I have introduced these passages*, because they often serve to illustrate my subject, and because they cannot fail to enliven it. Although I am of opinion that, in many of the American seminaries of learning, the study of the languages of ancient Greece and Rome, has occupied too large a share of the time and attention of youth, to the exclusion of more important studies, I am far from coinciding in sentiment with certain American writers, who have laboured to effect the complete banishment of these languages from our schools. An entire neglect of the Latin language, in particular, will emphatically mark the era of the decline of genuine taste, among a people.
The study of VEGETABLE PHYSIOLOGY has long been one of my most favourite pursuits. I have always considered it as the richest portion of Botany. I bè. lieve its practical tendency, is highly important. It was originally my intention to have given, in the Second Part of these Elements, a general view of the principal subjects in the physiology of vegetables. But I soon found, that this scheme must be deserted, as I had gradually drawn myself into an extent of discussion (with respect to the subjects that are involved in the first and third parts of the work), which I had but little contemplatedt. This must serve as my apology for the deficien
* Not only in the First but also in the Third Part.
| My original proposals were to furnish a volume of, at least, two hundred and eighty pages, with eighteen plates. It is unnecessary to say, how much the work
cies and imperfections of the second part of the work. To supply, in some measure, these deficiencies and imperfections, I design to publish a Supplement to these Elements, in which the physiology of vegetables will be principally considered. I cannot pretend to fix upon the precise time at which this supplement shall appear. But, should the state of my health permit me to devote the necessary attention to the subject, I may hope to publish it in the course of the ensuing summer or autumn. It will consist of about one hundred and sixty pages, and will be illustrated by a few necessary plates.
In the Third, and last, part of this work, I have principally confined myself to an exposition of the SexuAL Method of Linnæus; to the natural orders (as they are called) of the same author, and have given notices concerning the natural and artificial methods of other botanists, from the time of Cæsalpinus to the present day*. Much of originality, or even of innovation, will hardly be expected in this part of the work. It will readily be observed, however, that I have taken some liberties with the Linnean arrangement of certain genera, particularly in the class GYNANDRIA, where I have followed the disposition of the learned Mr. Swartz, one of the most distinguished botanists of Europe.
If in the discussion of the subjects which are involv. ed in the third part of the work, the reader meet with any thing strictly new, it is principally in what regards the
has been extended beyond the limits of this plan. For particular reasons, I think it proper to add, that the whole of the first, and the greater portion of the third, part of the work were printed off, before any of the pages of the second part were committed to the press.
CHARACTER of the different classes. Under this head, I have not only endeavoured to show the natural relation of the different genera to each other, but I have also introduced a number of notices concerning the dietetical, the medical, and other properties of the plants of the class which I have been treating of. It will be readily obvious, however, that the limits of my work would not admit of my entering extensively into an investigation of these various subjects. I have been able to do little more than touch
upon them. Nevertheless, I will flatter myself, that this part of the work involves many facts, which will be new to some of my readers. For a more particular account of the medical properties of many of the North-American vegetables, I beg leave to refer the reader to my Collections for an Essay towards a Materia Medica of the UnitedStates.
The greater number of the Plates, by which the work is illustrated, have been engraved from the original drawings* of Mr. William Bartram, of Kingsessing, in the vicinity of Philadelphia. While I thus publicly return my thanks to this ingenicus naturalist, for his kind liberality in enriching my work, I sincerely rejoice to have an opportunity of declaring, how much of my happiness, in the study of natural history, has been owing to my acquain
The seventh and the thirtieth are the only Plates in the whole collection, which have no claim whatever to originality. The sixth plate has been formed, with alterations, however, from Mr. Bonnet's work On the Uses of the Leaves of Plants. In every other instance, the plate is either completely original, or along with original figures, I have introduced some figures from different authors, but particularly from Miller's Ilustration of the Sexual System of Linnæus. London: 1777. Plate xii (engraved from one of Mr. Bartram's drawings) was kindly presented to me by my friend and colleague, Dr. James Woodhouse, Professor of Chemistry, in the University of Pennsylvania.
tance with him; how often I have availed myself of his knowledge in the investigation of the natural productions of our native country; how sincerely I have loved him for the happiest union of moral integrity, with original genius, and unaspiring science, for which he is eminently distinguished. “ Sero in cælum redeat.”
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The difficulty of composing an elementary work on Botany, or any other Science which, like Botany, is frequently changing its aspect, from the discovery of new species, and the researches and experiments of ingenious men, will be readily conceived, and acknowledged. This difficulty is peculiarly experienced by Americans, who, notwithstanding the rapid growth of science in their country, are (with respect to the science of the European nations) the inhabitants, as it were, of an Ultima Thule. I have to regret, that in the composition of this work, I often stood in need of that assistance, which it would have been easy to have obtained in Europe. I have never yet seen Willdenow's edition of the Philosophia Botanica, and I had not even an opportunity of consulting, except in a very few instances, this industrious author's edition of the Species Plantarum. After I had made considerable progress in my work, Dr. Hull's Elements of Botany* fell into my
hands. Of Senebier's large work, on the Physi
* Elements of Botany. Illustrated by sixteenRengravings. By John Hull, M. D. &c. &c. In two volumes. Manchester: 1800.