Monday, March 8, 2010

From the collections: Happy 264th, Andre! edition

While I should plunge right into reminders of this month's full event's schedule, I'll put that off for tomorrow.  More importantly, it's the 264th birthday of French botanist Andre Michaux.  While Michaux had some formal education early in life, his great botanical skills were developed working on his father's farm near Versailles.  This proximity to the royal palace, coupled with Michaux's ability to grow almost anything, brought him to the attention of the French court.  He was sent to learn under the best botanists in the country, and soon sent to work as a botanist in the field.

It's this field work that brought Michaux into contact with the Library Society.  After a three-year trip through the Middle East, he was named the Royal Botanist, and sent to North America.  He spent some time in Philadelphia: hanging out with Ben Franklin, establishing a research garden.  After about a year, he sailed south for Charleston.  He grew his experimental plants- crepe myrtles, mimosas, camellias- at Middleton Place; and he met with the foremost scientific minds in Charleston - the intellectual heirs to Alexander Garden and John Lining- here at the Library Society.

Though further travel led him all across North America, he kept a home base here in Charleston until his return to France in 1796.  From the time of his arrival here, until his death in 1802, Michaux would send books and manuscripts back to Charleston.  One of these, the Ikhtiyarat-i Badi'i, is pictured here:

 The leg-bone's connected to the thigh bone...

The Ikhtiyarat-i Badi'i, written in 1492, is one of the oldest manuscripts the Society possesses.  It is a medical textbook from Isfahan, Persia, written at what, in the 15th century, was the world's most advanced hospital.  Today it's available for viewing here at the Society (and available for reading if you can read middle Farsi...), so come by soon and ask for the Ikhtiyarat-i Badi'i by Haji Zayn al-Attar, Zayn al-Din 'Ali ibn al-Husayn al-Ansari (but be sure to pronounce it right so we know what you're talking about).

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