THRELKELD, Caleb. D.D. Synopsis Stirpium Hibernicarum Alphabetice Dispositarum [MACCLESFIELD COPY THE VERY RARE FIRST IRISH FLORA]


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Sive Commentatio de Plantis Indigenis praesertim Dublinensibus instituta. Being a short treatise of native plants, especially such as grow spontaneously in the vicinity of Dublin; with their Latin, English, and Irish names: and an abridgment of their vertues: With several new discoverys. With an appendix of observations made upon plants. By Dr. Molyneux, physician to the state in Ireland. The first essay of this kind in the Kingdom of Ireland. Auctore Caleb Threlkeld, M.D. Dublin: Printed by S. Powell, for the Author; and are to be Sold by T. Sanders in Little-Britain, London, 1727. 12mo. Second edition. pp. 26, [176], 60 (Appendix). Nineteenth century full sprinkled, covers ruled by double gilt fillets, spine divided into six panels by five raised bands, title in gilt on red morocco label in the second, the remainder tooled in gilt. Bookplate of North Library on front pastedown and embossed neat stamp on titlepage. All edges sprinkled. A
fine copy. Extremely rare.
COPAC locates 3 copies only. Henrey 1430 (ESTC T99225).
An imprint variant of ESTC T210828 which is dated 1726.

Henrey describes this as the second issue with “a new title-page”. Dr. Threlkeld was a kindly physician, with eccentric views about Ireland and its people. His flora contains comments on patriotism, witchcraft, herbal cures and all sorts of trivia. He was the first to publish the legend of St. Patrick and the shamrock. It contains an appendix of previously unpublished observations supplied by Thomas Molyneux. This work is enhanced by Threlkeld accurately assigning the native Irish names to the plants, taken from a ms. believed to have been the work of Rev. Richard Heaton (d.1666), which probably provided him with over 400 names of native plants in the Irish language. This in itself is a novel aspect of Threlkeld’s work, and he also translated from Latin some passages from earlier works, which he hoped would thus be of more benefit to less learned readers. Scholars, including some of Threlkeld’s contemporaries, criticised the work as insufficiently scientific and too much derived from earlier authorities, notably John Ray’s ‘Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum’ (1696), but recent research supports Threlkeld’s own claim that his catalogue was the ‘first of its kind in the kingdom’ (quoted in Nelson (1979)), and he seems to have made his own collection of plants. Several hundreds of the plants he listed had not been published for Ireland before. Colgan said of him: “Nothing could be further removed from a bald scientific catalogue than the piquant medley of herbal and homily in which this medical missionary from Cumberland delivers himself of his opinion on botany, medicine, morals, theology, witchcraft, and the Irish question”.


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