The Ambonese Herbal Book I; Containing All Sorts of Trees, That Bear Edible Fruits, and are Husbanded by People Introduction Georgius Everhardus Rumphius, E. M. Beekman

Publication date:
23 Sep 2011
Yale University Press
548 pages: 276 x 191 x 41mm

Over the course of five decades, the seventeenth-century naturalist Georgius Everhardus Rumphius assiduously gathered information on the native plants of Ambon Island and its archipelago. By presenting descriptions of the plants and their multiple uses, he succeeded in creating a cultural and scientific treasury of incomparable value for today's botanists, anthropologists, ethnobotanists, science historians, medicinal chemists, and other scholars. This comprehensive reference, complete with over 800 original illustrations, describes in remarkable detail more than 2,000 plants, their habitats, and their economic and medicinal uses. Also recorded are native plant names in Malay, Latin, Dutch, and Ambonese-and often in Macassarese and Chinese as well. E. M. Beekman's introduction discusses the Herbal's significance for tropical botanical literature and surveys the Indonesian economic and medicinal uses of the plants Rumphius described. Beekman also provides invaluable annotations throughout the Herbal.

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Winner of the 2012 Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries annual Literature Award in the 'Technical' category

Georgius Everhardus Rumphius (1627-1702), a soldier and naturalist, arrived on the island of Ambon in Indonesia in 1653 and until his death devoted himself to the task of documenting the tropical environment he encountered there. The late E. M. Beekman, a highly acclaimed authority on colonial and Dutch language and literature, was Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He was also an accomplished poet and novelist and the author of two dozen books.

“Rumphius’s unique work deserves to be known the world over.  And for his achievement, Professor Beekman deserves a medal.”—Peter van Zonneveld, Leiden University, The Netherlands

“No other book on Asian plants with comparable detailed descriptions and notes has ever been written, and it would be impossible to make many of the observations again today. …the Herbarium Amboinense is not only a work of great botanical and historical importance, but is also highly relevant in the current search for new plant-derived medicines and an invaluable record of the customs of the time….It is my pleasure to strongly recommend Rumphius’s Herbarium Amboinense to all those interested in these magnificent accounts."—Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden

?Apart from its historical and scientific value, the text is a joy to read?.This book has my fullest and unreserved enthusiasm.? ?Brent Bauer, M.D., F.A.C.P.

?Rumphius worked and wrote during a critical era in the history of western science, when the broad field of natural history was being developed, in large part in colonial contexts.  His greatest work, ?The Ambonese Herbal?, was one of the seminal natural historical works of the seventeenth century.  As presented and interpreted by E. M. Beekman, one of the foremost contemporary scholars of Rumphius, it shows the important contribution that native practices and knowledge made to the development of this field ? Rumphius was in many respects a practicing ethno-botanist, centuries before this field was defined ? and it also shows how the politics of knowledge operated during this formative stage in the development of western science.  Rumphius worked at a time when plants dominated global discourse in economics, politics, and culture, in the same way that minerals and petro-chemical products do today.  This unique work, the publication of which redounds greatly to the credit of the Yale Press, provides new insights into the global dynamics of power and knowledge at the dawn of the modern era.??Michael R. Dove, Yale University

"Beekman's introduction, which deftly combines historic, geographic, scientific, and humanistic material, is a first-rate piece of work, brilliantly written and a joy to read. . . . a magnificent achievement."—Craig Smith, The Santa Fe New Mexican

"Full of fascinating social and medicinal lore, a legacy of a vanished time."—Dominique Browning, The New York Times