Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sibthorp Digitization Project

Flora of Oxfordshire

  Translation and
  digitization project

A translation of the preface to Sibthorp’s Flora Oxoniensis of 1794 will be published on the internet with a spreadsheet of species mentioned and their localities. This data will help us to locate rare species in the county, and to estimate when species have become extinct.

John Sibthorp FRS (1758-1796) was the youngest son of Humphrey Sibthorp, Sherardian Professor of Botany at Oxford. He studied at Lincoln College, Oxford and then as a travelling Fellow of University College at Edinburgh and Montpellier. His Flora Oxoniensis, exhibens plantas in agro Oxoniensi sponte crescentes, secundum systema sexuale distributas was published when he was 36, shortly before his untimely death.

The Preface begins “Long ago Cambridge claimed its Flora for itself. Indeed more than a century has elapsed since Ray, easily the foremost botanist of his time, led the way and has been successfully followed by celebrated men in our time. However up to now Oxford, though often trodden by the botanist’s foot, has as yet found none who would identify its plants and reference them by their currently legitimate names. Yet a great of multitude of species have localities here, thanks to the diversity of landscapes and soils. In the shady beech woods we can find Monotropa, Pyrola and Seraphis, which appear rarely in other regions. Alpines indeed we don’t have, as our area is not adorned with mountains. However close to Oxford Shotover Hill is not without subalpines. Selago and Oreopteris adorn the northern slopes, and even Drosera grows surrounded by soft mossy carpets. Below in the peaty fen of Bullingdon Green in summer the sedge beds burst with flowers of Pinguicula  and Parnassia reaching for the sun; among them even the scarcely known creeping Sium can be found.”

Though available in Latin, it seems no translation of the work has been produced, perhaps because the main text is readily accessible since it uses Linnaean plant names and most of the localities given are extant village names.

Only the vascular plants will be attempted at this stage. The mosses and fungi etc would require more expert knowledge, and are probably less informative since many of the Linnaean taxa will have been subdivided later.
Help on the preface is being obtained from Claire Barnes, Christopher Preston and Philip Oswald who have recently completed the second translation of Ray’s Flora of Cambridgeshire!
Using the Internet Archive of the original, volunteers will adopt a number of pages and transcribe the data into a spreadsheet with the following column headings:

Species number in Sibthorp
Linnaean name in Sibthorp                    
English name in Sibthorp                        
Latin name in Stace 3rd edition               
English name in Stace 3rd edition
Family in Stace 3rd edition                       
Determined by         
page in Sibthorp     
Habitats if mentioned                               
Flowering month as given by Sibthorp
Woody, perennial, biennial or annual as in Sibthorp
Locality as in Sibthorp                             
Locality modern name                             
Comments by Sibthorp                            
Comments by transcriber                        
Tetrad or monad  grid reference            
checked by transcriber                            

The data will then be checked by another person and entered into the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre database, and submitted for publication on the Fritillary website.

To help with this project please contact                         

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