Draakenstein (1678)

Henric van Rheede tot Draakenstein


The south-western part of India know as Malabar had as its colonial governor in the late seventeenth century a Dutchman of strong botanical interests, Henric van Rheede tot Draakenstein (1637-91), who compiled a now much treasured series of volumes about the region’s floral riches, Hortus Indicus Malabaricus, published in Amsterdam from 1678 onwards. There is a fine copy of part of it in the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives. It is profusely illustrated by high-quality engravings. In three great tomes, volume one carryies the Latin text and volumes two and three the plates, a galaxy of uncoloured drawings of exceptional clarity and given dramatic effect by being double-page spreads. Trees are a major theme, and some of them, such as the economically important coconut palm, are given special prominence. In this project, Draakenstein had much expert artistic and scientific help. During his years in Malabar he periodically sent home the material to make up the volumes, and it was left to a team of botanists and artists in Amsterdam to produce this sceintific work, the earliest to be published on the flora of India.