The Knowledge of Vegetables

root-sectionRoot Section
“An Idea Of Phytological History Propounded, Together with a Continuation of The Anatomy of Vegetables, Particularly Prosecuted Upon Roots”, by Nehemiah Grew (1641 – 1712)

If we take into account of the degrees whereunto the knowledge of Vegetables is advanced, it appeareth that their Descriptions, Places, and Seaſons are with good preciſeneſs and curioſity ſet before us. Likewise, that we are informed of the Natures and infallible Faculties of many of them. Whereunto ſo many as have aſſiſted, have much obliged by their Poſterity.

By due reflection upon what they have performed, it alſo appears, what they have left is imperfect, and what undone. For the Vertues of many Vegetables are with much uncertainty, and too promiſcouſly aſcribed to them. And of the Vertues of many they are altogether ſilent. And although, for the finding out and just appropriation of them, they have left us some Rules, yet not all. The Deſcriptions likewise of many are yet to be perfected; as alſo their Draughts, eſpecially as to their Roots. And their proper ranks and affinities much undetermined. But for the Reaſon of Vegetation, and the Cauſes of all thoſe infinite varieties therein obſervable (I mean ſo far as matter, and the various affections hereof are inſtrumental thereto) almoſt all men have ſeemed to be unconcerned.

That nothing hereof remaineth further to be known, is a thought not well calculated. For if we consider how long and gradual a Journey the knowledge of Nature is, and how ſhort a time we have to proceed therein; as on the one hand, we ſhall conclude it our eaſe and profit to ſee how far others have gone before us: ſo ſhall we beware on the other, whilſt we have a juſt value for thoſe who were but her Diſciples and inſtructed by her. Their time and abilities both being ſhort to her, which as ſhe was firſt deſigned by Divine Wiſdom, ſo may her vaſt dimenſions beſt be judged of, in being compared therewith. It will therefore be our prudence, not to inſiſt upon the invidious queſtion, which of her Scholars have taken the faireſt meaſure of her; but to be well ſatiſfied, that as yet ſhe hath not be circumſcribed by any.

Nor doth it more behove us to conſider how much of the Nature of Vegetation may lie before us yet unknown, than to believe a great part thereof to be knowable: not concluding from acknowledged, much leſs ſupported inſucceſſfulneſs of any mens undertakings; but from what may be accounted poſſible as to the Nature of things themſelves; and from Divine Providence, by infinite ways conducting to the knowledge of them. Neither can we determine how great a part this may be; becauſe it is impoſſible to meaſure what we ſee not. And ſince we are most likely to under-meaſure, we ſhall hereby but intrench our endeavours, which we are not wont to carry beyond the Idea which we have of our Work.

And how far ſoever this kind of Knowledge be attainable, its being ſo far alſo worthy our attaintment will be granted. For beholding the many and elegant varieties wherewith a Field or Garden is adorned, who would not ſay, That it were exceeding pleaſant to know what we ſee; and not more delightful to one who has eyes, to diſcern that all is very fine; and to another who hath reaſon, to underſtand how. This ſurely were for a man to take a true Inventory of his Goods, and his beſt way to put a price upon them.

Yea it ſeems that this were not only to be partaker of Divine Bounty; but alſo, in ſome degree, to be Copartner in the Secrets of Divine Art.

Infinite thanks to BibliOdyssey for  beauty &  scholarship, to Paul Peacay for lucidity, discernment, and insight.

[Please see the ‘translation’ there:

“. . . . Despite the incredible abundance of plants in our environment, it remains baffling that most people don’t seem particularly disposed to learning more about them . . . . It’s fundamentally illogical to assume that the amount we know about plants at the moment is all that there is to be known. Mother nature has evolved over a long time in comparison to our relatively short period on earth so we are wise to have some regard for the observations passed on by our forebears . . . . We just don’t know how ignorant we are and there is no way to determine the magnitude of that deficit . . . .
Our destiny imposes a duty to achieve a balance with our environment that goes beyond mere exploitation.”

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