John Miller, Globethistle

John Miller, Globethistle

John Miller (1715-90)
Globethistle, Echinops ruthenicus
Plate from 'An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus' Published in parts
between 1770 and 1777
Engraving, coloured by hand
Museum no. E.48-1892

Miller displays the thistle at different stages of development to give a fuller picture of the plant's lifecycle. Dissections of flower and seeds are also given. In a single plate Miller gives a complete account of a plant's structure.

The book from which this illustration is taken attempted to illustrate the Linnaean classification system. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) was the first scientist to classify plants not according to the way people used them but rather by the physical similarities between their reproductive parts. Once classified, each species was given a fixed two-part Latin name reflecting where in the plant world it belonged.

Miller's Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus was one of the most successful books of the time. The plates were extravagantly praised by Linnaeus as 'more beautiful and more accurate than any that had been seen since the world began'. His correspondent John Ellis wrote on 28 December 1770 that 'the figures are well drawn, and very systematically dissected and described'.

This print can be found in Print Room Box DP3.