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ROBERT GRAHAM, M.D., F.R.S., EDINB. F.L.S.
&c. &c. &c.
MY DEAR SIR,
REGIUS PROFESSOR OF BOTANY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH.
FELLOW-LABOURERS as we are together in the same field, occupied professionally in the same pursuit in Sister Universities of this country, and alike anxious for the advancement of our favourite science;—these may be considered, in themselves, sufficient reasons why I should wish to dedicate the following pages to you. But I have a still stronger inducement; namely, that I may thereby record the friendship which has, I believe, almost from the first of our acquaintance, subsisted between us, and which I fervently hope may continue during the remainder of our lives.
That this work may be found useful to your students, as well as to my own, and that your zealous endeavours to promote the interests of your Class, and of Botany in general, may be rewarded by the most happy success, are amongst the sincerest wishes of,
Your faithful and affectionate Friend,
THE object which the Author proposed to himself, in preparing a new Flora of the British Empire, was of a twofold nature: 1stly, to provide the young Student with a description of our native plants, arranged according to the simplest method; and 2dly, to afford to the more experienced Botanist, a manual, that should be useful in the field as well as in the closet. In regard to the first object, the experience of nearly an hundred years has proved to every unprejudiced mind, that no system has appeared which can be compared to that of the immortal Swede, for the facility with which it enables any one, hitherto unpractised in Botany, to arrive at a knowledge of the Genus and species of a plant. The Linnæan method is, therefore, here adopted.
It has been the opinion of the author, and of many of his friends, that, in most of the Floras hitherto published, however excellent in other respects, either too much or too little space has been devoted to the generic and specific descriptions and synonyms; in the one case, swelling the book to a size, which induces both expense to the purchaser, and difficulty in consulting the several volumes; in the other, reducing the technical characters to the shortest possible compass, so that they can scarcely be made available, except to those who are already partially acquainted with the plant under examination, or with some of its near allies. Between these extremes, the author has attempted to steer a middle course, by giving diagnostic remarks where, and where only, they have appeared to him necessary; confining the synonyms, with few exceptions, to those of the writer who first described the plant, to a good figure, and a reference to a single Flora of England and of Scotland; and by adopting such an arrangement of the subject-matter as would best occupy every portion of the page, without rendering it obscure to the reader. How far his endeavours have proved successful, must be left to the experience and judgment of those for whose use the work is particularly intended. Should it prove serviceable in advancing the cause of Botanical
science in this country, the end which was fondly anticipated at the commencement of the undertaking will be fully accomplished. During the progress of the labour, it occurred to the Author that he could give an additional interest to the volume by subjoining short notices of the uses and properties, or some little historical remarks relative to the species, the origin of the generic names, &c. thereby recommending the pursuit of which it treats, to the attention of the many, who are still apt to look upon Botany, as a dry and profitless employment, a system of hard words, destitute any real utility to mankind.
Mirbel has well remarked, that "Ceux qui proscrivent l'usage des méthodes artificielles n'en ont point saisí le véritable esprit ; ceux qui ne s'attachent qu'à ces classifications arbitraires, et qui négligent l'étude des rapports naturels, ignorent la beauté et la dignité de la science;". '—a maxim which it is to be wished were more generally acknowledged than it is. For it is unfortunately too much the practice of the day, for the one party, having devoted an exclusive attention to one or other of these Methods, to decry that with which he is unacquainted, or the advantages of which he has never had the good fortune to experience. The more easy the commencement of a study is made, the more votaries will be drawn to it; and though they should attain to no further knowledge of a Natural method than what has been taught by the imperishable writings of a Linnæus and of a Smith, yet let them be assured that in plants, taken individually, and in an isolated manner, there are subjects that will give ample scope for the employment of the talents of the greatest philosophers in the due contemplation of which they may derive both pleasure and advantage to themselves, and be the means of communicating them to others.
"The well-directed sight
Brings, in each flower, an universe to light."
Lyonet acquired at least as much honour, and rendered as great service to mankind by his intimate acquaintance with the anatomy and functions of the organs of a single caterpillar, as if he had spent his life in arranging all the known insects of the world, according to a new and Natural System.
Nor let it be supposed that the author is advocating the cause