Romanus Adolph Hedwig
Observationum Botanicarum (1802)


Romanus Adolf Hedwig (1772-1806) was the son of German bryologist Johann Hedwig, who settled in Leipzig as a professor of botany at the University and director of the botanical garden. Romanus studied at the University and became a professor of botany himself in 1801, shortly after his father's death (1799). One of only four of Johann's 15 children to survive him, Romanus carried on his father's herbarium, specializing in mosses; though it was sold at auction in 1810, much of the collection has been re-assembled at the Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques in Geneva.

The Observationum botanicarum was delivered as an academic oration and first published in February 1802 by the Leipzig printer Hirschfeld (ex officina Hirschfeldia) in 15 pages with no plates. This version is held by only one library in the U.S.: the National Agricultural Library. In May of the same year, a "trade edition" was published by a different printer (in bibliopolio [sic] Schaeferiano) in 20 pages, with 11 plates commissioned for the work. This edition is held by five libraries in the U.S.: the Smithsonian, Harvard's Botany Library, Michigan State University, Missouri Botanic Garden, and the New York Botanical Garden.

As the title indicates, the 20 pages seem to have been intended as the first part of a larger work, starting with the mosses and lower plants, but no evidence has been found to indicate that the work was ever continued. Hedwig contributed to Weber and Mohr's Beiträge zur Naturkunde (Kiel, 1805[-1806]) and published his greatest work, the Genera plantarum, in 1806. He died in the same year at the age of 34.

The book

Romanus Adolf Hedwig. Observationum Botanicarum[.] Fasciculus Primus [Botanical observations. Part one.]. Leipzig: In Bibliopolio [sic] Schaeferiano, 1802 in Roman Numerals [1802].
QK45.H45o 1802 RB Botany.

Pagination: [1]-20 pp.; 11 pls. (engraved, hand-colored). 27.5 cm.

Collation: [A]-B4C2; 11 lvs. pls.

[A1] p.[1-2] Title page; verso blank
[A2-A3] p.[3]-6 Introduction
[A4]-[B4] p.[7]-16 Text: species accounts
C1-[C2] p.[17]-20 "Explicatio tabularum" [=Explanation of the plates]
  Tab.I-XI Plates

This book survived in the Botany Branch of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries in a commercial pamphlet cover, with an adhesive attachment along the inner (gutter) fold. It was removed from the cover, and the text leaves were disbound, cleaned, and repaired (filling in paper loss at the edges and folds of leaves with Japanese paper) by Conservator Janice Ellis of the Libraries' Book Conservation Laboratory. Glue stains remain visible along the inner edges of pages A1r, A4v, and B1r. The plates received only a surface cleaning along their edges and remain glued together along the left-hand edge, the residual evidence of their former pamphlet casing. The work is now protected by a paper flap-enclosure and a clam-shell box, made by the Laboratory.

The top edges have been roughly cut along the folds, but the leaves are untrimmed and somewhat irregularly shaped, a probable indication that they were never properly bound by their previous owner(s). This may be due in part to the fact, mentioned above, that they constitute only the first section of what seems to have been intended as a longer work.

The paper on which the text is printed is quite rough, with a distinctly gray cast. It appears to have been unevenly laid in the mould, as its thickness varies within each sheet; short brown, blue, and red fibers are visible throughout. A watermark appears vertically along the gutter fold between leaves 2 and 3 in each of the first two gatherings; it depicts the letters "IFS" within a lozenge with wavy end lines. It has not been possible to identify the mark in any of the standard sources available (see Sources below), perhaps not surprisingly, given their time-period and regional foci.

The plates are on a different paper: smoother and heavier, of a warm creamy color, with various marks of the well-known paper-maker, Honig. As with the text leaves, those of the plates have the top edges cut, while the other edges are untrimmed.

The plates are not signed, and none of the bibliographic sources consulted provide information on the artists who created them.

A pencilled notation appears in the upper left corner of the title page; partially erased and difficult to decipher, it seems to be a group of numbers above several letters, separated by a diagonal line, and may possibly be a bookseller's annotation. Otherwise the marks and annotations (an embossed property stamp with a pencilled accession number, and other pencilled notes) were made at the Smithsonian Institution. The library accession books of the U.S. National Museum (the only museum at the Smithsonian until the early 1900s), which survive in SIL's Special Collections Department, show that Hedwig's work was purchased from Friedlander, the German bookseller, in November 1897, along with over 100 other botanical titles. The Observationum Botanicarum was at that time in a paper wrapper or cover.


Note: The following sources were searched but contain no information on R.A. Hedwig or his works

Watermarks sources: