Archibald Pitcairne's (1652-1713) plate
The plants on this plate all have a fruit that is a multichambered capsule containing many seeded. They are all orchids, members of the largest family of flowering plants (Orchidaceae). All images on the plate show the feature – the two swollen structures at the base of the stem – that gives orchids their name; orchis is Greek for ‘testicles’.
This plate is sponsored by the Scottish physician Archibald Pitcairne (1652-1713), and must have been made between April 1692, when he became professor of medicine at Leiden, and summer 1693, when he returned to Edinburgh. Pitcairne’s association with the Historia is through having written the Vita Roberti Morisoni M.D. at the start of Part 3 of the Historia. Pitcairne described his fellow countryman as being ‘vigorous in body, having a mind trained to every kind of study, of ingenuous manners, calling a spade a spade, eager for true knowledge, a hater of filthy lucre, considering the public advantage rather than his private gain’.