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Preface to the Reader
"... I became inspired with a passion for Botany ..."

... I have given the plan of my book, and have briefly outlined for the benefit of the Reader those features which I consider may be of value either to him or to myself. Finally I should like to enter a plea that men of University standing to whom God has given leisure and a suitable education and intelligence, should spare a brief interval from other pursuits, and, without in any way neglecting their other studies, that they should develop the habit of examining Nature, and compile a comprehensive account of its creatures so that they can begin to gain wisdom by their own experience rather than from somebody else's brain, and learn to read the leaves of plants and interpret the characters impressed on flowers and seeds.

Certainly no one need fear that such a study would be unproductive and useless, for if I may quote the words of P. Laurembergius: "Nothing within the compass of the whole wide world yields a richer pleasure not only to the mind but also to the body, the servant of the mind, than the rich store of plant life, and the copious and varied produce of things growing in the earth." and a little further on: "I say that Man receives from plants all the many things which life requires, whether for living simply or in moderation or in luxury. Human frailty has need of food, drink, medicines, clothing, housing, furniture, shipping, the pleasures of the senses and of the mind - all of these needs plants lavish upon us for our use and enjoyment from their store." as he shows by enumerating each item fully. 

I readily admit that, as human affairs are now, such studies do not greatly contribute to the accumulation of wealth or to the winning of the favour of our fellow-men, nevertheless I know 

of no occupation which is more worthy or more delightful for a free man than to contemplate the beauteous works of Nature and to honour the infinite wisdom and goodness of God the Creator. I do not suggest that any one should deliver and devote himself entirely to these studies, but that he should embrace them within reason and sometimes divert himself with them for his personal pleasure so that he can learn something thoroughly well even in his moments of leisure and not allow any part of his life to be completely empty.

I am quite sure that the pursuit of plants will be a pleasurable occupation for a studious youth for I have known many scholars of every rank in Trinity College for whom this occupation has afforded not only bodily exercise but also mental satisfaction. I fully realise that not everyone is captivated by the sight of flowers or of the meadows in spring, or if they are captivated, there is something that delights them even more. Some take pleasure in ball-games, others in drinking, gambling, money-making or popularity-hunting, and they show themselves very diligent participants in these activities. I am not writing Phytology for such as these for they are interested in something quite different, but I offer a hundred banquets for the Pythagoreans, dedicated to the true philosophy, whom kindly Nature and Titan have fashioned from finer clay, whose concern is not so much to know what authors think as to gaze with their own eyes on the nature of things and to listen with their own ears to her voice, who prefer to know quality to quantity and usefulness to pretension: to the use of such as these, in accordance with God's glory, I dedicate this little book and all my studies.

Reproduced from
Ray's Flora of Cambridgeshire, 1660
Translated, edited by A H Ewen and C T Prime

John Ray