For many years after its first publication in 1690, John Ray's Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum was the most consulted book about British plants, the pocket companion of British apothecaries, physicians and country gentlemen on their field excursions. Linnaeus gained most of his knowledge of the British flora from the third edition (1724), revised by Dillenius, here reproduced in facsimile, and he based his dissertation Flora Anglica (1754 and 1759), also reproduced here in facsimile, on this work. Linnaeus's introduction of consistent binomial nomenclature for species in 1753 made Ray's names archaic and obsolete; nevertheless botanists continued to consult the Synopsis for information during the next 50 years. Thus it has acquired a lasting scientific value, particularly for cryptogamists.
To the modern British floristic botanist, this standard handbook of his predecessors has a sentimental and often sad interest. It records the plants of a vanished England, of the country before the enclosure of common land, drainage of marshland, and urban and industrial development. For writers of local Floras, Ray's Synopsis is often a primary source of historical information.
The introduction by W. T. Stearn to these facsimiles includes an account of Ray's career, details of the editions of the Synopsis and of the contributors to it, and other information, such as Latin words indicative of habitat, to aid its use. J. E. Dandy has contributed a revision of the nomenclature of Linnaeus's Flora Anglica.