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The Herbal of Rumphius

A 17th-century Dutch naturalist established the botanical foundations of the flora of Indonesia

Lynn Margulis, Peter H. Raven

One Year per Volume

The%20only%20known%20live-posed%20portrait%20of%20Georgius%20Everhardus%20RumphiusClick to Enlarge ImageWorking alone for more than seven years with the invaluable support of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and on a Guggenheim Fellowship (2001) that barely financed one year, Professor Beekman himself, like his object of study Georgius Everhardus Rumphius, astounds us. His unique linguistic abilities (aside from fluency in Latin, Dutch, German and English, he was an accomplished poet), his perseverance, intelligence and newly acquired botanical expertise, are requisite to this work. We suspect the timing was optimal; it is unlikely that anyone else was competent and generous enough to complete this enormous undertaking.

It is E. M. Beekman’s labor of love that finally disseminates the efficacious, popular yet scholarly knowledge of Rumphius to so many of us nature-loving Anglophones such that neither the natural history nor the future of botany will be the same. In its current form, no doubt, the entire seven-volume work will be a necessary acquisition for arboreta, herbaria, horticultural, medical and paleontological museums, and all science libraries. We are likely also to see specialized derivative books and articles sprout from Beekman’s giant seed like that of the orchids of Rumphius already published in 2002.

We are grateful, as we suspect you will be, for the existence of the translation and commentary on the Dutch 17th-century work by Rumphius. We welcome with delight the completion of this 21st-century work of nearly the same scholarly magnitude by our late University of Massachusetts–Amherst colleague.

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