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Nova Plantarum Genera

Pier Antonio Micheli, New York, N.Y. , 1976


he original edition of this important book dates from 1727 and includes 1,900 species of plants, about 1,400 of which were described for the first time. Unlike van Sterbeek in his 17th century volume, Micheli was able to employ a microscope. With a rather primitive instrument, he documented the differences in spore shape, size and ornamentation for the first time. His experiments with the production of fruiting bodies from spores proved that fungi were organisms in their own right, an idea his colleagues and successors largely ignored in favor of the prevailing belief in spontaneous generation which held that insects, worms and fungi were produced by decaying matter.

In this illustration, a puffball emitting its spores can be seen at the bottom of the page. The strip of text below the puffball has the name of a financial supporter of the book. Micheli, like many natural history authors of the 18th and 19th centuries, relied on financial support from subscribers to cover his publication expenses.