John Miller (1715-1790)
Plate from 'An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus'
Published in parts between 1770 and 1777
Coloured by hand
Museum no. E.48-1892
The Swedish botanist Linnaeus (1707-78) was the first scientist to classify plants not according to the way people used them, but rather by the physical similarities between their reproductive parts. Once classified, each species was given a fixed two-part Latin name reflecting where in the plant world it belonged.
This print was made as plate for an English publication An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus. As the title suggests, there was a strict adherence to Linnaean principles: the plants were ordered in the volumes alphabetically by Latin name, while the dissections at the foot of the page emphasised the importance of the reproductive parts.
Linnaeus himself praised the illustrations, saying that they were 'more beautiful and more accurate than any that had been seen since the world began'.