BOOK REVIEW: The Ambonese Herbal, Volume 1: Introduction and Book I: Containing All Sorts of Trees, That Bear Edible Fruits, and Are Husbanded by People by Georgius Everhardus Rumphius; translated by E.M. Beekman | Science News

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BOOK REVIEW: The Ambonese Herbal, Volume 1: Introduction and Book I: Containing All Sorts of Trees, That Bear Edible Fruits, and Are Husbanded by People by Georgius Everhardus Rumphius; translated by E.M. Beekman

Review by Susan Milius

By
12:16pm, October 21, 2011

Anyone who has slogged through some prolonged, hope-sucking endeavor to get published may wish to toast the first full English translation of this storied herbal. The six-volume botanical masterpiece from the 17th century still has things to say to modern readers, as well as to long-suffering writers. In fact, the book inspired a 2005 pharmacology paper reporting nine novel compounds for further drug research.

The herbal’s writer, German-born Georg Eberhard Rumf (Latinized as Rumphius) shipped off to the Spice Islands in what is now Indonesia in 1652 to work for the Dutch East Indies Company on its spice route. (For a taste of spice politics, see translator Beekman’s detailed introduction in Volume One and lively footnotes throughout.)

Rumf took up documenting natural history on the island of Ambon. His herbal includes descriptions,  medical uses and cultural l

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