'What he hath gather'd together shall not be lost': Remembering James Petiver
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Notes and Records
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© 2019 The Author(s). James Petiver FRS (ca 1663-1718) was a professional apothecary and prominent natural historian in London at the turn of the eighteenth century. This essay introduces a special issue of Notes and Records, 'Remembering James Petiver', marking the 300th anniversary of his death. Combining his known biography with new research, it accounts for Petiver's formation as urban apothecary and botanist, his emergence as public natural historian in the mid 1690s, and his subsequent career as natural history collector and author. Petiver's museum of plants and invertebrates was accumulated by co-ordinating an unprecedented network of relatively ordinary people, many of them medical practitioners, to collect for him wherever they travelled: North and South America, western and southern Africa, mainland Europe, South and East Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. This network and its achievements were predicated upon Britain's expanding global commercial and colonial interests (including those that exploited the traffic in and labour of enslaved human beings). It also depended upon Petiver's strategic management of his collaborators, through the exchange of correspondence and material objects. New analysis of Petiver's network, specimens, publications and manuscripts revises the prevailing view that he was careless and disorganized, to reveal a socially industrious and intellectually discriminating natural scientist.