Ancient botanical collection at  Reggio Emilia Civic Museum

Herbaria ad exsiccata
The use of dry samples for the study and identification of plants dates back to the beginning of 16th century. At that time botanists left progressively the study of iconographic treatises and begun studying living plants, observing them in the Botanical gardens and collecting them in dry samples (“horti sicci”), always available and ready for the study and exchange between botanists

At this time, the study of Botany is enhanced by the new species of plants brought to Europe by the great exploration journeys

The oldest dried herbaria are often presented in the form of bound volumes, with specimen directly attached on the pages with glue, or fixed with little stripes of paper or fabric.

Erborario Naturale del Santo Spirito di Reggio
A bound volume with the inscription: “Erborario Naturale del Santo Spirito di Reggio”, dated back to the middle of the XVII Century, is the oldest botanical collection conserved in the Musei Civici of Reggio.

In spite of the precarious state of conservation of the plants, the herbarium shows a careful preparation with the grasses fixed to the sheets by thin coloured fabric stripes, the names written in elaborate handwriting and coloured borders of the pages.

"Absintio Ortense serve pista la sudeta a guarir le macature."
Indication of therapeutic properties of the plant

The specimens are fixed to the sheet with colorful fabric strips

Near some plants are indicated their therapeutic properties, according to the mainly healing purpose of the collection of wild plants of the era.

"si pilgia un monipolo di deto marubio e un otavo di onzia di termentina et un altro di carlina e falo bolir in mezo bochal di vino biancho a lento focho e tolgi un oncia di eupatorio..."

Herbarium of Giacomo Zanoni
XVII century

As time goes by the botanists begin to prefere herbaria with loose sheets, to freely order and increase the collection, as we can observe in the herbarium of Giacomo Zanoni

Giacomo Zanoni (1615-1682), born in Montecchio (RE), has been the Director for more than 40 years of the Botanic Garden of Bologna. He is the author of an important book: “Istoria botanica” and he is also the author of a plant collection perfectly conserved. It has 184 plants: they are finely arranged, fixed directly on paper sheets with elegant labels

In the early herbals only the common name of the plant was generally indicated.

Plant classification with callighaphy decorations

Plant classification with calligraphic decorative elements

Digitalis blossoms detail

Filippo Re Herbarium
In the 18th century each plant  was usually classified  with all the names used by previous authors, such as we can find in some sheets of Filippo Re Herbarium.

Born in Reggio Emilia in 1763, Filippo Re set his mind to the study of plant physiology, testing the plant nutrition. Through his studies he helped the rebirth of agriculture and the land reform in Reggio Emilia. He taught Botanic and Agronomy at Reggio Emilia high school and than, for Napoleon's will, he became Professor of Agriculture at Bologna University. Here he was also the Rector from 1805 to 1806. Later he had the chair of Agricultural Botany at Modena University and was the Director of Modena Botanical Garden from 1814 to 1817. He died in Reggio Emilia in 1817 during a typhus fever epidemic.

Eggplant different classifications

With the increasing number of known plants, the polynomial became increasingly complex and difficoult to use.

In the mid 18th century Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linne, 1707-1778, a Swedish botanist and zoologist), provided the answer to the need of having a unique name for the botanical species. He introduced the binomial species naming system, encoded in his work "Species plantarum" (1753). At the end of the 18th century the Linnaean nomenclature was in use among all the european scholars: even Filippo Re arranged in this way his extensive herbarium.

Phaseolus nanus


His Herbarium consists of 7214 sheets collecting about 5200 species, arranged in 155 cases. They are ordered on the basis of Linneo method based on Classes (marked by male sex organ) and Orders (marked by female ones). It has species both from Reggio Emilia area and from different places thorughout the world. Except few exceptions we haven't informations about the places they come from, neither the date they were picked up. For most of them the preservation status is good.

Onion blossom

Filippo Re's main interest of was not, however, related to botany, but to agriculture. He experimentally studied the improvement of agricultural practices, publishing numerous treaties.

Filippo Re works treated multiple topics, from plant diseases to the use of various types of manure, from the alfalfa crop to spelled, melon, strawberry, cotton, etc. These include: "Saggio sulla coltivazione e su gli usi del pomo di terra e specialmente come valga a migliorare i terreni", "L'ortolano dirozzato", "Il giardiniere avviato all'esercizio della sua professione", "Elementi di agricoltura"

Corn ear detail

His interest for Agriculture is testified by the presence in his herbarium of many examples of cultivated plants, including numerous varieties of wheat and other cereals.

Wheat spike detail

Titicum sativum - Grano d'Odessa

Musei Civici di Reggio Emilia
Credits: Story

Musei Civici of Reggio Emilia would like to thanks:

Google Cultural Institute

Massimo Magnani, dir. Area Competitività e innovazione sociale

Elisabetta Farioli, dir. Musei Civici

Silvia Chicchi, ispettore naturalista

Georgia Cantoni, coordinamento redazionale

Selene Cabibbo, Andrea Viani, redazione

Fabrizio Giacchè, Marina Notari, collaboratori

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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