Palermo; Philadelphia: printed for the author, 1814; 1816.
First editions of both works. 55, ; 36 pp. 1 vols. 12mo (136 x 92mm). Two by the Great Rafinesque. Near-contemporary blue leather-backed marbled paper-covered boards, spine gilt. Upper joint split but holding, infrequent light foxing BM Nat. Hist. p. 1638; Circular Address: Sabin 67448; Eberstadt 138-604; Meisel III, p. 377. Item #259586
Two rare and early works by the polymath naturalist Constantine Rafinesque (1783-1840), born in Constantinople and raised in Marseilles, though his name is forever associated with American botany, zoology, and linguistics. After an American apprenticeship, Rafinesque lived in Palermo from 1805 to 1815 and published classifications of new plants and animals in Sicily. The first title, printed in Palermo, reviews his work during the preceding decade and “serves as an introduction to his future works.” The second title, his first publication in America, announces an amibitious serial publication to record the natural history of North America. Rafinesque’s Florula Ludoviciana (1817) provoked controversy and a hostile reception.
“Rafinesque’s ‘natural’ system, adapted from French prototypes developed by Michel Adanson and Antoine de Jussieu, grouped plants according to their perceived morphological relationships, a system that prevailed by the middle of the century … But his life's work was totally ignored by his contemporaries, most of whom agreed with fellow botanist L.D. von Schweinitz, who wrote in 1832 that ‘he is doubtless a man of immense knowledge — as badly digested as may be & crack-brained I am sure’ … His reputation was rehabilitated about the middle of the twentieth century when it was acknowledged by most botanists that most of Rafinesque's 6,700 Latin plant names had been validly published according to rules since adopted by the botanists themselves” (ANB).
Rafinesque, who is also well known for his work on the fishes of the Ohio and his studies of the mound-builders of the Ohio valley, was an early observer of the impermanence of species. Darwin cited him in Origin of Species (6th ed.) as one of three American naturalists who recognized that "species undergo modification."
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