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From 1786-87, John Sibthorp and Ferdinand Bauer accomplished an admirable scientific and physical achievement. From their journey through Greece and western Turkey, they brought home about 1000 sketches that served as the basis of the Flora Graeca.
Sibthorp had to rely on the help of herders, farmers and monks. He used a copy of the work of Dioscorides, who had founded botany 1,700 years before. Sibthorp showed the drawings of Dioscorides to locals, and they led him to the sites where they could be found. In Greece, Ferdinand Bauer sketched the plants and provided his drawings with colour codes, which he later used to colour the pictures. The result was one of the most important works in the history of botany: 10 volumes, each with 100 pictures of the rich flora of Greece.
The book had only one shortcoming: the public ended up never seeing the work, even less so the Greek public. Given its high price, a total of only 60 copies were published. They disappeared in libraries and private collections, and were up to now only accessible to specialists.
In recent years, the mystery of the Flora Graeca has been uncovered. In 2007, Oxford University Press published a very readable book about the genesis of the Flora Graeca with numerous original drawings (Harris, 2007). The facsimile edition of 2009 remains too expensive for most people (Strid, 2009). The present book is based on scans from private collections. The 250 drawings (of originally 900) show the plants that are most widespread throughout Greece nowadays. It is called it a “popular edition” on purpose. The publisher follows the tradition of popular editions of the late 19th century and early 20th century, when scientific works were offered in an understandable language, and at an affordable price.
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