Leonard Plukenet 1642-1706

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Leonard PLUKENET 1642-1706

Biographical Note

Born in London, son of Robert Plucknett. Matriculated at Hart Hall, Oxford 1662, but did not graduate. He appears to have established a practice as a physician in London, though not a member of the Royal College of Physicians or of the Society of Apothecaries. He also developed an interest in botany, collecting samples of plants from around the world, creating a botanical garden of his own, and making connections with other contemporary naturalists such as John Ray and Sir Hans Sloane. From the 1690s onwards he published a series of volumes of engraved plates of plants (Phytographia, 1691-6, Almagestum botanicum, 1696, and others) which were both important and influential in advancing botanical knowledge. He was appointed superintendent of the royal gardens at Hampton Court ca.1689 and towards the end of his life extended his interests to insects, collecting one of the first known collections of dried and mounted specimens.


In his will, Plukenet bequeathed to his wife Letitia "my study of books which cost me some hundreds of pounds and which I would have her expose by auction or otherwise to make money of". He also left to her "all my Hortus Siccus books of inestimable value to persons curious in botany", and all his copper Phytographick plates, advising her not to part with these until the stock of printed copies from the plates had first been sold.

Plukenet's library was sold by auction in London in a mixed sale together with the books of Sir Hugh Everard, beginning 20 October 1707. The catalogue lists 1719 lots, plus "several [unlisted] manuscripts of law, history, physick, mathematicks, etc", divided into Latin medicine (466), Latin mathematics (146), Miscellaneous Latin (429), Miscellaneous English (482), and Law (196). There is no way of distinguishing which books came from which source, though most of the medical and scientific books were presumably Plukenet's. Many of his collections of botanical and insect specimens were acquired by Sir Hans Sloane. Examples: British Library 445.c.16.

Characteristic Markings

The British Library has copies of botanical books by John Ray and Jan Goedaert annotated by Plukenet.