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Abstract

A modern Flora of Virginia will soon be published, providing an occasion to remember the publication of the first Flora Virginica in the 18th century and to establish the proper attribution of its authorship. Based on a manuscript by John Clayton, Flora Virginica was published in two parts in 1739 and 1743 by the Dutchman Johan Frederick Gronovius. Although both names are printed on the title page, the book is often cited with Gronovius listed as the author. This tradition, interpreted in modern understandings of plagiarism, has led to an assertion that Gronovius misrepresented Clayton's work as his own. This paper will review the cultural milieu and historical context of the publication. The discovery of an 18th century watercolor drawing with an inscription assigning Flora Virginica to Clayton and evidence from a letter shows that contemporaries regarded the book either as Clayton's or as a joint enterprise. It is suggested that Gronovius be understood as an advocate willing to publish Clayton's work in what he considered to be the most modern Linnaean taxonomic system when self-publication was all but impossible for Clayton. The book should be referenced as by Clayton and Gronovius.

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