UPON presenting to the public the portion of this work, which completes one half of his labours, the author of the American Medical Botany feels himself bound to offer some report of the progress and prospects of his undertaking.
The plan of this work was formed and announced at a time when such a subject was wholly novel, and when coloured botanical engravings, from the difficulty and expense of their execution, were almost unknown in this country. It was endeavoured that the plan should be such as in some degree to insure, what both authors and their friends should desire, extensive circulation and permanent utility. An edition of a thousand copies was printed, and that the work might be generally accessible, the price was fixed at a lower rate, in proportion to the number of plates, than works of the kind have ever been placed at in this country; a rate which the probable sale of the whole edition could alone justify. As permanent utility was esteemed of more importance than ephemeral success, the work has not been hurried in any stage of its execution, even though some temporary advantages might have been obtained by its earlier appearance. The author has not willingly adopted the opinions of others in botany or medicine without examination, and has thought no delay injurious which might lead to the establishment of truth or the detection of error. He has been desirous, in adding the results of his own experience, that the book should have, in some degree at least, the character of an original work, rather than of a compilation; at the same time that it should present a fair view of what is known on the subjects of which it treats. The figures of the plants have, in every instance, been made from original drawings, which were executed by himself, with the exception of two or three presented by his friends. The style of engraving is wholly new in this country, and is one which has been successfully attempted only by the first artists in France.
It gives him pleasure to state, that the reception of the work, in all parts of the United States, has exceeded his anticipations, that the subscription is already more than sufficient to defray the expense of publishing, and that its regular increase renders it probable that the whole edition will be taken up at an early period.
He avails himself of this occasion to return his acknowledgments to those correspondents who have obligingly assisted him by the communication of specimens for the work, and of the results of their own researches and experience. Particularly he would express this remembrance to ZACCHEUS COLLINS Esq. of Philadelphia, a gentleman whose active kindness has repeatedly supplied his botanical necessities; and whose extensive erudition has enabled him to afford counsel, which would not have been sought at a less respectable source. To Professor IVES of New Haven, a zealous and intelligent cultivator of the American Materia Medica, he would express the obligations derived from his communications and correspondence. It would be unjust to forget that many medicinal plants of the Southern States, with observations on their properties, were furnished expressly for this work, by the late Dr. JAMES MACBRIDE of Charleston, S. C. a physician and a botanist, whose premature death has terminated a career of honourable usefulness and of active, liberal and efficient prosecution of science. His friends cannot remember without regret a man, who had the rare quality of being learned without ostentation, who was ambitious of usefulness more than of fame, and who sought rather to be valuable to others than just to himself.
As the materials for the rest of the American Medical Botany are now principally collected, and most of the drawings finished; the remaining numbers will be issued with as much promptness and regularity, as is consistent with their faithful execution.
American Medical Botany, 1817-1821, was written by Jacob Bigelow, M. D.