Cabinet 08 - The Sexual System

Eichstatt Misn tracts Dissatisfied with existing systems of classification, such as determining a flower by the shape of its petals, Linnaeus formed his own classifying system which was first published in his Systema Naturae in 1735. It was a sexual system that formed 24 classes, based on the number and arrangement of stamens (male organs) and pistils (female organs). His reference to flowers as 'beds' and stamina and pistils as 'husbands' and 'wives', and descriptions such as 'Nine men in the same bride's chamber, with one woman' caused some controversy. Indeed, one rival (Johann Siegesbeck) called the system 'loathsome harlotry.' Despite its artificiality, his system was simple, practical and very successful. Encapsulated on two pages in his Miscellaneous Tracts is his system applied to the lily. The Orange or Fire Lily from this superb facsimile of the early 17th century Hortus Eystettensis (The Garden at Eichstätt) is classed as Hexandria monogynia.

Carl Linnaeus, Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Natural History, Husbandry and Physick. 3rd ed. London: Printed for J. Dodsley, and Leigh, and T. Payne, 1775; New York: Arno Press, 1977 (facsimile). Science QH 9 MN63 1977; Basilius Besler, The Garden at Eichstätt. Köln: Taschen, 2000. Special QK 41 BJ24 2000

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