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Old botany books from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries (and maybe also some later ones) enumerating lists of species used to give references to their sources as abbreviations consisting of one or few truncated words and sometime numbers.

For example : C.B.Pin.316. or H.Mal.6.79 or Prod.Par.Bat. (see highlighted parts in the following screenshot extract).

enter image description here Source : https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/502858

The meaning of these abbreviations may have been clear to the scholar of those times, but are quite enigmatic to non-initiated people. And I couldn't find within the books any intelligible list of these references.

I would like to know if there is a somewhat comprehensive list of such abbreviations giving the full wording of the references so that it could be possible to look up for them. Browsing the internet with just the abbreviation mostly gives meaningless results from popular websites (many in social networks ...).

I did find out the meaning of some of these abbreviations:

for instance: C.B.Pin. means Caspari Bauhini Pinax Theatri Botanici, which is this book: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/713 and the number (here 316) gives the page where the plant was listed in this book.

However, there is a huge number of these enigmatic references, so some help would be really welcome.

I looked at the International Plant Name Index (IPNI), but it does not seem to have results for these abbreviations.

I searched the web for:

I also tried combinations involving such words as "old botany books" "old references in botany books" but could find nothing suitable.

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2 Answers 2

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I have found what may be the holy grail. It is a book known as "A Botanical Materia Medica" by Jonathan Stokes. This has several volumes, but the one you want is volume 1, which has no appended "volume X" in the title.

A list of abbreviations can be found on page XIII (or 13 for those not familiar with Latin numerals), just after the introductory letters and dedication.

You can read the volume for free on Google books (let me know if the link doesn't work; I made it into a .com link from my country one...)

I found this by search for "cam hort botany"; "cam hort" being one of the abbreviations in your supplied picture. This lead me directly to one of the Botanical Materia Medica volumes by Stokes, which lead me to think it may well have a list of references somewhere, so I then searched for "botanical materia medica stokes" and working from there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much ! That was exactly the kind of list I was desperately looking for ! I'll keep an "open ear" to possible other lists like this one, maybe of more recent and/or more comprehensive compilation, but as a first result, that's a brilliant one ! Thanks again ! $\endgroup$
    – botaflo
    Sep 8, 2021 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ @botaflo no problem. I have come across a similar question before on another site. I'm a former botanist myself (now virologist), so I know the frustration. I also like old texts of this sort, so if you have access to the originals, know that I am deeply envious. $\endgroup$
    – bob1
    Sep 8, 2021 at 21:58
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    $\begingroup$ ;-) no need for envy : I only access such texts from behind my screen. Yes old texts are cool. It's such a great chance to at least have access to them through internet ! $\endgroup$
    – botaflo
    Sep 8, 2021 at 22:05
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I have found a database which lists some abbreviations, it's on Tropicos.

But it seems quite limited in the search possibilities, for instance: looking for "Hort. ups." does not find the "Decas plantarum rariorum horti upsaliensis" which is abbreviated in this database as "Dec. Prima Pl. Rar. Hort. Upsal.", neither does the search for "Hort ups", nor "hort" nor "ups".

So if you don't give it exactly the correct abbreviated form, it might not succeed. You might have better luck if you have the right beginning and there are not too many options.

Still, it might be of interest for someone, and it does give something like what I was looking for, so I'll leave that link here.

Oh, and there is also this one here.

And the IPNI does provide some search for publications, but no index of abbreviations (but it may be worth to try searching for bits of abbreviations).


I was not so happy with all of these so I made my own list. It's on my Wikipedia sandcast.


[Edition, June 5, 2022] I just found "An Explanation of the AUTHORS Names" in the Gardeners Dictionnary by Philipp Miller (1768), which looks quite close to what I was looking for.

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