Pierre Bulliard, 'Cuckoo's Pint

Pierre Bulliard, 'Cuckoo's Pint

Pierre Bulliard (1742-93)
'Cuckoo's Pint, Arum maculatum'
Plate from 'Herbier de la France'
Published in parts between 1780 and 1795
Colour engraving
Museum no. 29638.532

This print is one of hundreds of illustrations from Bulliard's Herbier de la France, published between 1780 and 1795. The way in which the book was organised provides an interesting example of the confusion that reigned during the period over correct classification rules.

In terms of labelling each plant, Bulliard fully embraced the classification system developed by the Swedish botanist Linnaeus (1707-78) in the mid 18th century. This system is still in use today, and relies on grouping plants according to their reproductive similarities and giving each species a fixed, two-part Latin name.

However, in terms of determining where in the book each plant came, Bulliard retained a much older convention in grouping them according to their usefulness to humans; whether they were edible, medicinal or, like the cuckoo's pint, poisonous.

Though this pattern had made sense in the herbals of earlier centuries, by the late 18th century it was becoming rather out of date as people began to order plants alphabetically by Linnaean name.

 

This print can be found in Print Room Box DP1.