Becoming Plant: Magnifying a Microhistory of Media Circuits
draft version, July 1, 2011
The fecundity of a scientific work stems from the fact that it does not impose the methodological or doctrinal choice toward which it tends. One has to look for the reasons behind this choice elsewhere than in the work itself.
- Georges Canguilhem, “Cell Theory,” Knowledge of Life (p. 28)
For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.
– John Milton, Areopagitica
 “So that a Plant is, as it were, an Animal in Quires; as an Animal is a Plant, or rather several Plants bound up into one Volume.”
This sentence comes from the dedicatory epistle to Nehemiah Grew’s The Anatomy of Plants, published by the Royal Society in 1682. With eighty-two detailed plates showing the magnified structures of leaves, seeds, stems and cross-sections of branches – much of it produced by looking through a microscope – Grew’s book collates over a decade’s worth of his research on the morphology, phytotomy and physiology of plants.
 Nehemiah Grew occupies an uneasy place in the history of science. On the one hand, historians have long acknowledged the significance of his Anatomy, a book which, in the words of Morton (1981), “put forward what was in effect the first comprehensive programme of botanical research” (194). On the other hand, Grew’s metaphors were too “strange” (Hall, 1962, 290), his terminology too “homely” (LeFanu, 1990, 20) for scientists of a later paradigm to use them. As Morton adds, for over a century after the book’s publication, “plant anatomy remained where they [Grew and his colleague Marcello Malpighi] left it; no one questioned their observations and no one added to them” (Morton, 1981, 179-180; see also Sachs, 1890, 225). Thus despite the excitement over its initial appearance within the Royal Society, his book languished in the pit of seventeenth-century proto-science, too Baconian in method to be counted among medieval herbals but not modern enough to have fully anticipated future discoveries in plant and cell biology.
 I do not attempt to resolve these tensions in Grew’s work. Rather, taking its cue from the microscopist himself, the present paper magnifies and dissects the series of analogies packed into the twenty-seven words quoted above: namely, that a plant is an animal, an animal a plant, and that both relate structurally to the book. I have chosen two plant-animal hybrids as my starting points: the vegetable lamb and the barnacle goose tree. Latent in Grew’s contention that “a Plant is, as it were, an Animal … as an Animal is a Plant,” these marvelous zoophytes originated in medieval travel books and bestiaries but persisted in various forms well into the seventeenth century, spurring on early experiments in comparative anatomy and embryology. Note that the choice of the vegetable lamb and the barnacle goose tree was somewhat arbitrary; I could have chosen the screaming mandrake, the arbor inversa or the sea sponge, since, like the preformed plant tucked inside a bean, the wondrous plant-animal atavisms folded into Grew’s analogy are (almost) limitless. However, unlike other examples, these vestigial epistemic structures provide ready evidence of how the third analogy in Grew’s triad – that a plant is an “Animal in Quires,” and an animal “several Plants bound up into one Volume” – evolved. Not only print culture (Eisenstein, 1979; Johns 1998) but the codex as a material object fomented early science by giving structure, both literally and figuratively, to the study of plants and animals during the seventeenth century. Thus from reading the divinity inscribed in zoophytic marvels to conceptualizing plant-animal bodies as quires and volumes, nature had become an actual book – a material artifact that unfolds like the two leaves of a plant, or binds together the organs of an animal body.
“So that a Plant is, as it were, an Animal in quires”
 men passen be a kyngdom þat men clepen Caldihe, þat is a full fair contre. And þere groweth a maner of fruyt as þough it weren Gowrdes, and whan þei ben rype men kutten him a to & men fynden withjnne a lytyll best in flesch, in bon & blode, as þough it were a lytill lomb withouten wolle. and men eten bothe the frut & the best, And þat is a gret merueylle. Of þat frute I haue eten all þough it were wonderfull but þat I knowe wel þat god is merueyllous in his werkes. (Hamelius, 1919, XXX, 175-6) 
This is the Borametz, also the Scythian Lamb or vegetable lamb of Tartary, as described in the book of John Mandeville. Tales of this marvelous plant-born animal circulated widely in late medieval and early modern Europe (e.g., Kircher, 1643, 639; Harsdörffer, 1653, 583; Parkinson, 1629, frontispiece; et al.), first as a kind of meat developed in a gourd, then as an animal fixed to the ground by a plant stem at its naval. In a later version of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the lamb was said to devour all the vegetation within range of its tether until, having stripped the earth around it bare, it starved.
 One of several medieval examples of zoophytes, the Borametz is neither wholly plant nor wholly animal. Its quadruped portion walks, eats and digests like a lamb – it even tastes like a lamb, according to some – at the same time the parent plant roots it quite literally to the earth. In a strange reversal of Aristotelian hierarchies, then, the higher sensitive soul of the animal, able to perceive and respond to stimuli with locomotion, depends vitally upon the soil-bound immobility characteristic of lesser plant life. Indeed, the lamb portion of this hybrid creature cannot survive the severing of its vegetable stem. Do these restrictions imposed by the plant demote the animal? Or does the lamb-fruit promote the plant to the status of a sentient creature? From both directions, this hybridic life-form exerts pressure on Aristotelian metaphysics, so much so that several seventeenth commentators refused to believe in it. “Untill either an autoptical experiment, or the observation of some, who are more curious of Truth, then exotique Rarities, shall remove those scruples which I have in me,” Walter Charleton (1652) writes, “concerning the fidelity of those large stories obtruded upon us by Travellers, of the … or Vegetable Lambe of Tartary … I shall beg leave to suspend my belief, that there are any such Heteroclites or midle Natures, half Vegetable, half sensible” (Charleton, 1652, 131-132).
 The reasoning of skeptics like Charleton – or believers like (perhaps) the compiler of John Mandeville’s book – offers a glimpse into the epistemic structures that shaped and reshaped beliefs about the natural world. For Charleton, writing in the middle of the seventeenth century, only an “autoptical experiment” can prove the existence of mixed creatures (although in a later text he suggests the Borametz may be an example of “Sensation without Sense,” or a kind of proto-sense, without commenting on the possibility of its existence; see Charleton, 1659, 123). Rather than demanding direct proof, Francis Bacon seeks alternative explanations, pointing out that the plant may only look like a lamb; “and as for the Grasse, it seemeth the Plant, hauing a great Stalke and Top, doth prey vpon the Grasse, a good way about, by drawing the Iuyce of the Earth from it” (Bacon, 1627, 155). Sir Thomas Browne echoes Bacon’s explanation in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica or Enquiries into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths (1672), suggesting that myth may be “no more, then the shape of a Lamb in the flower or seed, upon the top of the stalk” (208) – a statement later refuted by Alexander Ross (Ross, 1652, 143). The dragonfruit bleeds, Ross writes; peaches have woolly skin, and the sensitive plant (mimosa pudica) responds to touch. Why, then, is the vegetable lamb an impossible creature?
 Thus in seventeenth-century discussions of the Boramets, both skeptic and believer treat its “marvelous” characteristics as a set of explainable phenomena, with the given explanations either confirming or denying its existence. In other words, for Charleton, Bacon, Browne and Ross, wonder initiates inquiry into the natural world not as always/already inscribed with divinity, but as a material reality comprised of objects able to be dissected, examined and compared. The Borametz’s curious hybridity also served as a tool for testing the boundaries of given Aristotelian categories – for, as the title to Browne’s book puts it, “enquir[ing] into very many received tenents and commonly presumed truths.” In this way, “strange facts” like the vegetable lamb were, as Daston and Park (1998) have argued, “Ur-facts, the prototypes of the very category of the factual,” helping to define “many (though not all) of the traits that have been the hallmarks of facticity ever since: the notorious stubbornness of facts, inert and even resistant to interpretation and theory; their angular, fragmentary quality; their affinity with concrete things, rather than with relationships” (236). Far from disappearing with the rise of experimental philosophy, the marvelous hybridity of the Borametz actually urged on the new methods by providing investigatory fodder.
 Before experimental philosophy began emphasizing the “objectness” of life – even (especially?) wondrous life – the marvel of the vegetable lamb was also laying the foundation for the kind of comparative anatomy that would, by 1682, allow Nehemiah Grew to describe a plant as “an Animal in Quires.” Here, Girolamo’s critique, from his De varietate rerum (1557), is illustrative. Describing the vegetable lamb as a fabula, a myth, Girolamo Cardano points out that “an animal that is endowed with blood has a heart; but the earth cannot support its beating and warmth” [animal quod sanguine praeditum est, cor habet: terra aute pulsationi & calori inepta est]; therefore, a plant could never support an organism with animal organs. Furthermore, “animals which are generated from semen need heat[;] … but earth and air are not able to be hot enough” to incubate embryos [animalia quae ex semine generantur, calido indigere ... at terra & aer non possunt esse adeo calida]. “For that reason,” he concludes, “isn’t it obvious why no plant has flesh?” [inde patet, cur nulla planta carnem habet?] (Cardano, 1557, 216). Although Julius Caesar Scaliger mocks Cardano’s reasoning (strictly speaking, his ignorance of animal reproduction misleads him), the hybrid nature of the vegetable lamb draws Cardano to a process of analogical reasoning by which he imagines the supposed functions of animal organs in relation to the morphology of a plant. Thus while the Borametz of medieval bestiaries synthesizes two species in one marvelous organism, Cardano, by severing the stem linking plant to animal, transforms wonder into an exercise in comparative anatomy. The Physiologus tradition has become the stuff of physiology.
 Although as early as ancient Greece philosophers were imagining plant anatomy in relation to animals – Aristotle, for instance, described a plant’s “heart” and “mouth” – Cardano’s incipient comparative anatomy would, by the seventeenth century, become the standard method of studying vegetable life. Indeed, experimentalists pursued these analogies with renewed vigor as new discoveries in animal anatomy fed back into microscopical observations of dissected plants. For instance, following William Harvey’s work on blood circulation, Martin Lister argued that the observable tubes in leaves operated like the veins and arteries found in mammals (see Roos, 2007, 80-81, 99) – a hypothesis debated by John Willis, who thought they were some form of nervous system (Webster, 1966, 18). Similarly, when explorers introduced the sensitive plant from the New World, amazed philosophers used animal functions to account for its response to touch. Thus in a paper read to the Royal Society in 1661, Timothy Clarke utilized contemporary theories of muscular contraction to provide a mechanistic account of the sensitive plant’s movement (Webster, 1966, 16). Henry Power even goes so far as to suggest that, because plants show a “continuall transpiration … like to that in animals,” they may also share certain forms of life with animals: “I can easily stretch my belief a little farther,” he writes in a letter to Thomas Browne, “and that is to conceive that all plants may not only have a transpiration of particles but a sensation also like animals” (Wilkin, 1835, 406).
 Far from some musty medievalism, then, the idea that a “Plant is, as it were, an Animal” was, by the time Grew was writing, the dominant method for understanding plant life (Delaporte, 1982). Grew himself expands on the metaphor, writing that
there are those things within a Plant, little less admirable, than within an Animal. That a Plant, as well as an Animal, is composed of several Organical Parts; some whereof may be called its Bowels. That every Plant hath Bowels of divers kinds, conteining divers kinds of Liquors. That even a Plant lives partly upon Aer; for the reception whereof, it hath those Parts which are answerable to Lungs. (Grew, 1982, “Epistle Dedicatory”)
Like many of his contemporaries cited above, Grew returns to this comparative method throughout his research, using the “divers material Agreements betwixt” plants and animals “not only to compare what is already known of both; but also, by what may be observed in the one, to suggest and facilitate the finding out of what may yet be unobserved in the other” (4). Of course, he warns, “if any one shall require the Similtude to hold in every Thing; he would not have a Plant to resemble, but to be, an Animal” (173) – an important distinction. In the Paracelsian thought of an earlier century, plant-animal resemblances revealed the signatura rerum written into nature, such that, for instance, the screaming mandrake’s man-shaped roots showed the zoophyte’s ability to cure barrenness in women (see, e.g., Findlen, 1990; Newman, 2007; della Porta, 1588). In other words, the humanness of the mandrake’s form and its apparent ability to feel human pain pointed to its sympathy with the human body. By contrast, Grew uses plant-animal analogies to bring the anatomy of each – especially their internal anatomies – into greater relief.
 Though not referring to Grew specifically, Wilson (1995) points to the kind of distinction Grew makes here as indicative of a broader epistemological shift among the early microscopists. “The microscope takes away the privilege of surface,” Wilson writes, since “what the object looks like on the outside is no guide to what it is in the sense of what it can do.” Thus, she concludes, “there is no resemblance” seen under a microscope: nature is not “a system of signs meant for us to read,” and “nature is not a book” (62-3). However, that nature no longer glows with divine illuminations does not indicate that it is no longer a book, only that it no longer takes the form of a handwritten manuscript. In fact, as shown above, nature was becoming more like a book, an artifact marked, in the early modern period, by a sameness of species across an entire print run of a title. Thus stretching from Grew’s analogy back to the Mandevillean description of the marvelous Borametz, one finds not a cultural rupture but a subtle shift in the ontology of objects – in the ways that immaterial relationships imbue and give shape to material things. For a late medieval writer, the Borametz confirms the marvelous divinity written into all Creation: “of þat frute I haue eten,” reads Mandeville’s Travels, “all þough it were wonderfull but þat I knowe wel þat god is merueyllous in his werkes of that fruit I have eaten.” Within this epistemology, the Book of Nature trope denotes an act, a devotional method by which one “reads” the handwriting of God mirrored in the marvel of the vegetable lamb (see Verner, 2005, 157; Johns, 1998, 47; Williams, 1996, 207; Findlen, 1994, 50-57). For Cardano, writing roughly two centuries later, wonder inspires him beyond devotion to interrogate the physical conditions of possibility for such a creature’s existence – to, as he writes, “handle the matter by nature” [rem tractare naturaliter]. For Grew, as for (to various extents) Bacon, Browne, Charleton and Ross, the marvelous hybridity of plant-animal analogies motivates the scientific method, and the Book of Nature becomes an actual codex giving structure, both figuratively and literally, to the natural world. From one kind of book to another, metaphors for the natural world shift around the axis of technological transitions, dragging structures of knowledge with them.
 In his dedicatory epistle of Book I, addressed to Bishop John Wilkins, Grew writes:
I Hope your pardon, if while you are holding That best of Books in one Hand, I here present some Pages of that of Nature into your other: Especially since Your Lordship knoweth very well, how excellent a Commentary This is on the Former; by which, in part, GOD reads the World his own Definition, and their Duty to him. (Grew, 1982)
Grew is intentionally ambiguous: does he refer to the metaphoric “Pages” of nature, or the actual pages of his own book, presumably being held by Wilkins while he reads these lines? As a compilation of all he has ever written on plants, Grew’s Anatomy is, in some sense, a literal book of nature: it translates the matter of plants (in both senses of that phrase) into descriptive text and precise visual representations, thereby materializing human knowledge of the vegetable world. The physical book participates in this reconstitution of nature’s matter, turning the fibers of the flax plant into paper, nut oils and lampblack into ink, animal bones into glue and animal skins into a cover. Indeed, this text analogizing animal organs to plant parts is, in its material form, a zoophytic assemblage of both.
 Yet, unlike in the medieval book of nature, Grew’s text does not simply mirror the divinity of plants but, importantly, offers an entirely new view into their inner life. Full-page plates show garden-variety stems dissected into dizzyingly complex cross-sections, then magnified as maps that unfold into monstrous landscapes. As Grew writes in his first dedicatory epistle to Charles II, “we are come ashore into a new World, … some will say, into another Utopia,” using a metaphor of exploration common in early texts on microscopy (see Wilson, 1995; Fournier, 1996); “yet not I,” Grew continues, “but Nature speaketh these things” (Grew, 1982, “Epistle Dedicatory”). Thus discovering this New World helps to print a new edition of the book of nature – one not of hieroglyphic scripts, metaphorically decoded by faithful observers, but of actual pages to be turned over by the scientist’s hand, unfolded like the leaves the of the plants described therein.
“as an Animal is a Plant, or rather several Plants bound up into one Volume”
 Cardano does not wholly discount the possible existence of an in-between creature. In fact, he speculates that “there might, perhaps, be a plant having sensation and also imperfect flesh, such as that of mollusks and fishes” (Cardano, 1557, 217) – an example which points to another marvelous plant-animal hybrid, the legendary barnacle goose tree.
Purported to be found growing along the ocean’s edge in Ireland and the Hebrides, the barnacle goose tree traces its roots to Topographia hiberniae, wherein Gerald of Wales describes birds that “appear as excrescences on fir-logs carried down upon the waters,”
hang[ing] by their beaks, like seaweeds attached to the timber. Being in the process of time well covered with feathers, they either fall into th water or take their flight in the free air, their nourishment and growth being supplied, while they are bred in this very unaccountable and curious manner, from the juices fo the wood in the sea-water. (Cambrensis, 1863, 36)
 Although Giraldus describes the barnacles as clinging to a piece of driftwood, other texts by Peter Damian, Thomas of Cantimpre and Gervase of Tilbury understand them as a kind of proto-beak that grasps the living tree’s bark as the goose develops. A later iteration explains the barnacles as a shellfish-like fruit that drops into the ocean, whence goslings hatch; while still others imagine the birds as spontaneously generating, worm-like, from sea-soaked timber.
 In all cases, the question remains: is it a plant or an animal? fish or fowl? If its birth from a barnacle classifies the goose as a shellfish, it is edible during Lent and on Fridays; and in fact, Giraldus reports certain bishops in Ireland eating the geese on fast days, “as not being flesh, because they are not born of flesh.” However, Giraldus cautions, “these men are curiously drawn into error”; for “if any one had eaten part of the thigh of our first parent, which was really flesh, although not born of flesh, I should think him not guiltless of having eaten flesh” (Cambrensis, 1863, 36). Moreover, nature provides mankind with the marvel of the barnacle goose precisely to inspire this kind of religious reflection – or, as Giraldus himself puts it, “for our instruction and in confirmation of the Faith.” By allowing the possibility of a tree-born goose, one confirms the reality of the virgin birth of Christ, or the making of Eve from Adam’s rib. Thus the presence of this medieval marvel always signifies a metaphysics beyond its own material instantiation, beyond the details of how a bird emerges from a barnacle, or a barnacle from a tree – beyond, even, the question of whether the goose exists or not. Although Giraldus assures his reader that he has “often seen [them] with my own eyes,” physical proof matters less than accepting the conditions of possibility for its existence, which are none other than those of the Christian cosmology.
 Mandeville’s Travels also mentions the barnacle goose tree. Immediately after his description of the vegetable lamb (quoted above), the narrator retorts:
natheles I tolde hem of als gret a merueyle to hem þat is a monges vs And þat was of the Bernakes. For I told hem þat in oure contree weren trees þat baren a fruyt þat becomen briddes fleeynge. And þo þat fellen in the water lyuen, And þei þat fallen on the erthe dyen anon; and þei ben right gode to mannes mete. (Hamelius, 1919, XXX, 176)
As Rosemary Tzanaki (2003) argues, this scene exemplifies the respect for otherness found throughout Mandeville’s Travels by showing that “the weird can equally well be found at home – the West has its own marvels just as the East does” (104). Yet the traveler’s boast also hints at the text’s broader mercantilist motives (see Verner, 2005, 136-141), a suggestion made more explicit in an illumination from the manuscript Livre des merveilles du monde est un ouvrage rédigé par Jean de Mandeville (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Française 2810). In the image, two men in Islamic garb offer three Christians a gourd cracked open to reveal a lamb; in return, the three men give a tree branch bearing small bird. Thus while Giraldus treats the barnacle goose’s marvelous procreation as ipso facto evidence of Christianity – indeed, uses it to try to convert the “unhappy Jew” – here wonders exist as tangible goods within a patchwork of competing belief systems, opening up lines of communication and, more importantly, trade routes between them.
 While Mandeville’s stories continued to circulate widely in printed editions of the late fifteenth and sixteenth century, an explosion of early modern herbals (see Ogilvie, 2003) begin citing the barnacle goose tree as an example not of a marvel but an actual plant growing along the northern cliffs of Ireland and Scotland. For instance, John Gerard’s well-known 1597 Herball includes the barnacle goose tree among its many plants; however, Gerard seems uncertain how to categorize it, tacking it on as the last entry. He seems equally unsure how to depict it. All but sixteen of Gerard’s woodcuts come from Tabernaemontanus’s Eicones plantarum (1590) and hence share its method of depicting plants as living units in flower and freed from the environments in which they grow. The woodcut for the barnacle goose tree, though – original to Gerard’s book – shows a twisted trunk huddled at the edge of the sea, geese-topped waves stretching off into the background. Instead of leaves, the tree has only five disproportionate, tulip-shaped barnacles hatching birds. Bizarrely out of place beside the clean, leafy renderings of other plants, this woodcut has more in common with the depictions of the barnacle tree in, for instance, Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia (1544) than with the visual style of contemporaneous herbals. Yet, taken as a whole, Gerard’s image situates the marvel, albeit crudely, within an environment that makes its knobby shape and unusual fruit seem biologically possible. The sea below excuses the presence of barnacles above; the hovering geese justify the wing peeking out of the shell. Thus if Giraldus reads God in the barnacle goose tree, and Mandeville’s Travels sees the tangible goods of trade, Gerard begins to imagine how matter, the stuff of nature, could physically bear this “marvelous” form of life.
 In fact, just as the vegetable lamb inspires Cardano to compare plant/animal anatomies, the barnacle goose tree spurs Gerard to perform an experiment:
I founde the trunke of an olde rotten tree, which (with some helpe that I procured by fishermens wiues that were there attending their husbandes returne from the sea) we drewe out of the water vpon dry lande: on this rotten tree I founde growing many thousandes of long crimson bladders, in shape like vnto puddings newly filled before they be sodden, which were verie cleere and shining, at the neather end whereof did grow a shelfish, fashioned somwhat like a small Muskle, but much whiter, resembling a shellfish that groweth vpon the rocks about Garnsey and Garsey, called a Lympit: many of these shells I brought with me to London, which after I had opened, I founde in them liuing things without forme or shape; in others which were neerer to come to ripenes, I found liuing things that were very naked, in shape like a Birde; in others, the Birds couered with soft downe, the shell halfe open, and the Birde readie to fall out, which no doubt were the foules called Barnakles. I dare not absolutely auouch euery circumstance of the first part of this Historie concerning the tree that beareth those buds aforesaide, but will leaue it to a further consideration: howbeit that which I have seene with mine eies, and handled with mind handes, I dare confidently auouch, and boldly put downe for veritie. (Gerard, 1597, 1392)
In his detailed observations, analogical thinking and tentative conclusions, Gerard sounds very much like an experimental scientist of the seventeenth century – indeed, like Nehemiah Grew himself. Although he never speculates how a bird came to be in a barnacle, his curiosity drives him where Mandeville’s did not: beyond the surface of the full-grown plant to investigate the claims about the physical reality of a marvelous reproduction.
 Roughly a half-century later, the same curiosity would impel Nathaniel Highmore (1651) to investigate the growth of the fetus inside a chicken egg, diagramming its different stages beside a cross-section of a bean containing a tiny plantlet curled in on itself. Highmore was, of course, not the first embryologist to compare plant seeds to animal eggs. Aristotle himself described embryo formation in terms of plant growth, initiating a tradition of comparative analysis that, as in the study of plant physiology, would continue into the eighteenth century. Moreover, Malebranche’s “famous lines credited with having marked the birthplace of preformation” (Pinto-Correia, 1997, 19) begin with the more evident example of preformed tulips and trees before pointing out that “we can also think of animals in this way” (quoted on 19). In fact, although its significance has been underemphasized in histories of the field, the bean was second only to the chicken egg in providing seventeenth-century researchers – both preformationists and epigeneticists – with a readily observable example of “embryonic” growth. Marcello Malpighi and William Harvey, who worked alongside Highmore, both experiment with beans; Theodor Kerckring, turning an explicit analogy into a conceptual metaphor, calls a fetus he dissects a “black cherry” (Kerckring, 1672, 4021; see also Keller, 2000). Fascination with this barnacle-tree-like comparison continues into the modern period with curiosity-seeking headlines like “Bird Embryo In Apricot” (Mechanix Illustrated, Dec. 1939).
 It is impossible (and methodologically undesirable) to link causally Gerard’s curious investigation of a barnacle fruit to Highmore’s bean-egg diagrams (or, indeed, to the bird embryo found in an apricot). Yet each of these singular descriptions forms one star in what would, by the mid-seventeenth century, appear as a constellatory shift in the study of life’s conception, indeed in the study of life itself. No longer marked by metamorphic marvels but not yet wholly taxonomized, the natural world revealed itself to man through analogies. That is, a plant might no longer be thought capable of generating an animal, as the medieval barnacle goose was; but it could produce a better understanding of animal reproduction through experimentation and simple observation.
 Thus while Giraldus reads the virgin birth in the barnacle goose tree’s metamorphic reproduction, the seventeenth-century microscopist Jan Swammerdam chides Harvey for darkening his experiment on bees with the “clouds of imaginary metamorphosis,” then warns colleagues against blasphemously comparing metamorphic animal reproduction to Christ’s death and resurrection (quoted in Pinto-Correia, 1997, 25; see also Fournier, 1996, 69. However, Swammerdam – who guiltily abandoned experimental philosophy to devote himself to his religious – does not shy away from analogizing man’s development to that of an insect in a collection of his posthumously published writings aptly titled the Book of Nature (Pinto-Correia, 1997, 26). Importantly, these analogous relationships were not Paracelsian similitudes, by which physical resemblance exposes the current of sympathy running between two things, but structural frameworks mediating the physical instantiation of life as such. From the autocratic Christian telos governing Giraldus’s description of the barnacle goose to Grew’s plant-animal analogy, the immaterial networks linking together matter were hardening into a kind of gross comparative anatomy between objects.
 Once forms of life relate to each not through spirit but matter, other objects – non-living objects – may enter into the analogy, participating as equals in this “parliament of things” (see Latour, 1993, 142-4). As has been widely discussed, mechanistic philosophy spurred this transformation by refusing to blur the lines between art and nature, between automata like watches and living animals. Less remarked, though, is the influence of other ostensibly less machinic artifacts like the book. In the form of journals, letters, reference works, manuals, essays and systems, texts were immediately present objects populating the desks of the early experimentalists in the same way that, as Latour and Woolgar (1986) have shown, they do the laboratories of scientists today (47-9). As such, they provided a ready analogy for the ways in which form gives way to function; the ways that immaterial meaning courses through material things; the way pleats of matter can fold up into a tightly-bound organ, or unfold like the leaves of a plant (see, e.g., Deleuze, 1993, 31). Indeed, natural philosophers used books as an analogy for ideating the structure and emergence of life as much they used them as a media platform for disseminating their ideas.
 The metaphor of the book entered debates about reproduction with particular force through the image of the epitome or compendium. As an abstracted or compilatory abbreviation of a longer text, the compendium perfectly mediates the problematic difference between growth and development. For an abstract can (and presumably should) grow into a full-length volume; but in doing so, new examples, new ideas, new organs of thought develop. In other words, from compendium to volume, a text moves from both general to specialized knowledge and from smaller to bigger, encapsulating both preformed thought and a kind of epigenetic potentiality. Thus Pierre Gassendi describes the seed as an “epitome of the plants whole soul” [epitome Animae totalis], containing “the idea, so to speak, and impression of the other parts” [caeterarum partium veluti ideam, impressionemque contineat]; it “communicates” [communicanteis habeat] life to all other parts of the plant as it develops (Adelmann, 1966, 799-800). Andrianus Spigelius likewise writes that “the seed is a fetus, and a compendium, so to speak, of the entire plant” [semen vero est foetus, & quasi totius plantae compendium] (Adelmann, 1966, 902). Writing several decades after Spigelius, Malpighi also describes the seed as a fetus but applies the compendium metaphor to the bud (it is “a compendium of the not-yet-unfolded plantlet,” quoted Adelmann, 1966, 902), as does Grew (“the Growth of a Bud … carries along with it, some portion of every Part in the Trunk or Stalk; whereof it is a Compendium,” Grew, 1682, 57). Grew further describes the floret as “the Epitome of a Flower” (38).
 In fact, Malpighi – who studied the buds of over twenty different species, often in sections under a microscope (Morton, 1981, 182) – frequently turns to the image of a condensed text, using it to describe seeds, plantlets, pre-existent coverings in bark (Adelmann, 1966, 844, 902), indeed most any part of the plant in which leaves unfold around a central stalk. He also applies the metaphor to the development of animals, writing:
there is present in the cicatrix a compendium of the animal, by which I mean the first outlines of the principal parts, or in other words, their outermost boundaries, which – through the mediating liveliness, communicating fluid motion – is made sensible when the cavities are gradually filled up and swell.
in cicatrice adesse compendium animalis, hoc est, delineationes primas principalium partium; extimos scilicet fines, qui vegetatione media, communicato fluidis motu, cum sensim repleantur concavitates & turgeant, obviae fiunt sensibus. 
Note the phrase vegetatione media – which Adelmann translates as “the agency of growth” but might more directly be rendered as “mediating liveliness,” akin to a vital spark – as well as the verb communicato. When paired with the metaphor of the compendium, these words construct an image of animal development as the enlargement of a text that expands to communicate ever more details about the organism. Importantly, the metaphor draws on both the generic and formal qualities of a compendium. In other words, the bud (or fetus) does not only conceptually “abbreviate” the fully-grown plant (or animal) but physically mimics the structure of a compiled text, abstracting its “principal parts” (principalium partium) into its “first outlines” (primas delineationes). Moreover, at least twice in his correspondence Malpighi refers to actual books as “compendia,” once in a letter to Henry Oldenburg describing his own dissertation on chick development (Adelmann, 1966, 844n6).
 Another example from Highmore shows the complexity of the compendium metaphor for plant and animal reproduction when married to an image of the body as a territory:
This blood, that all parts might be irrigated with its benigne moisture, is forc’d by several chanels, to run through every region and part of the body; by which means every part out of that stream, selects those Atomes which they finde to be cognate to themselves. Amongst which the Testicles … abstract some spiritual Atomes belonging to every part; which had they not here been anticipated, should have been attracted to those parts, to which properly they did belong for nourishment. As the parts belonging to every particle of the Eye, the Ear, the Heart, the Liver, Stomack, Guts, the Hand, every particular bone, and muscle, &c. which should in nutrition, have been added (to repair the continual deperdition) to every one of these parts, are compendiously, and exactly extracted from the blood, passing through the body of the Testicles; and being in this Athanor cohobated and reposited in a tenacious matter (lest being spiritual, and very fine, they should lose their vigor) at last, passe from the body of the Testicles, by certain vessels, in which through infinite Meanders, it undergoes another digestion and pellicanizing, (as in another place I have shown.) And from thence, being now delivered from all its excrements, and furnisht with Atomes, fit for the making of every part and particle of an other Individuall; is treasured up in certain Granaries, till the seed time comes. And this is the nature, substance, and manner of collecting the Seed. This shall be further illustrated by the several wayes of Generation in severall Creatures, and first in Plants. (Highmore, 1651, 44-6)
Here, the body is a vast landscape irrigated with channels that, like streams, communicate the nutrient-rich seeds of life to other regions – to the eyes, the ears, the heart, each body part its own ecosystem. While most of these seeds take root, thereby repopulating (and expanding) the body’s landscape with new life, some collect in the testicles, the body’s granaries, which collate these seeds into a compendium. Reproduction, then, is the act of migrating this human compendium – each chapter a set of instructions for seeding new body parts – to another territory, the female body. Thus folding the life cycle of plants into a flow model of communication, Highmore’s account transforms the human into a text-generating mechanism, spitting out abstracts to seed its ideas on the New Worlds of other bodies. Indeed, Highmore uses the social life of texts to conceptualize reproductive mechanisms in much the same way, three centuries later, Richard Dawkins would turn to genetics to explain how ideas spread.
 Far from novel, the conceit of man as compendium or epitome is an ancient one. If the world is the Book of Nature – a similitude for God’s book, the Bible – then man was its compendium: an abstract or microcosm of the entirety of Creation (see, e.g., Nicolson, 1950, esp. 22). Like the Book of Nature, this trope experienced a revival in the seventeenth century, in no small part because the observations and debates of experimental philosophers infused the metaphor with new meaning. In his Religio medici Thomas Browne links preformationist theories of plant reproduction to the compendium model of man, writing:
 In the seed of a Plant to the eyes of God, and to the understanding of man, there exists, though in an invisible way, the perfect leaves, flowers, and fruit thereof: (for things that are in posse to the sense, are actually existent to the understanding.) Thus God beholds all things, who contemplates as fully his workes in their Epitome, as in their full volume, and beheld as amply the whole world in that little compendium of the sixth day, as in the scattered and dilated pieces of those five before. (Browne, 1643, 115-116)
 Thus the seed encapsulates the preformed plant the same way man encapsulates the glory of God, who alone can view the whole volume of creation. In a letter to Thomas Browne, Henry Power recapitulates this view, writing that “the smallest seeds are nothing but their own plants shrunk into an atome, which though invisible to us, are easyly discernable to nature, and to that piercing eie, that sees through all things.” Power goes on to suggest the vanity of expecting “an ocular demonstration of these things, unless,” he hopefully (and perhaps a bit sarcastically) adds, “wee had such glasses (as some men rant of) whereby they could see the transpiration of plants and animals, yea the very magnetically effluviums of the loadstone” (Wilkin, 1835, 405-8). Thus by extending the human eye, the microscope brings the vision of compendious man closer to that of God, who sees the full volume – which itself turns out to be nothing but nested compendia all the way down. Here, the weight of materiality – the experimental philosopher’s insistence on the physical make-up of nature – begins to break apart the image.
 By describing a plant as an “Animal in Quires,” Grew collapses the textual metaphor into a formal analogy. The quire was an important structural unit in early modern printing. To facilitate binding, printers nested the conjugate leaves cut from a printed sheet of paper into small pamphlets, or quires. The number of leaves in a quire thus determined the order in which the pages were imposed on a whole sheet of paper. (For instance, in a quire of four leaves, two conjugate pairs are stacked and then folded together, the first printed with pages two and seven on the front, and pages one and eight on the back; the second printed with pages four and five on the front, and pages three and six on the back.) Because a quire with many nested pairs of leaves complicated the process of ordering and imposing pages, marks or “signatures” (recall the significance of this word in earlier Paracelsian philosophy, here materialized) along the bottom of the leaves guided printers and binders in gathering the conjugate pairs into one fold, as well as in stacking the quires to form a full volume. To analogize a plant to an “Animal in Quires,” then, is to imagine the organism as an assemblage of individual parts, each part related to the whole in the same way. Pairs of leaves unfurl from a single stalk like folia from a quire’s fold; cut one leaf and the structure survives, though its symmetry suffers.
 By contrast, the animal operates at the level of the individual, its parts subordinate to the operation of the whole organism. Cut off a deer’s leg and it may live; however, unlike a tree with one less branch, the three-legged deer is critically transformed, its ability to survive greatly diminished. Thus if a plant is like a paper quire both in structure and in function, the animal is, Grew posits, like several quires “bound up into one Volume.” That is, the animal’s anatomy is not loosely gathered, like that of the plant, but “bound” together as a whole, its inner text shut between leather covers. A single volume (“one”) has a spine to hold it together, and a title to give it a unique identity in the ecosystem of ideas. As a compilation of his previous publications, each printed with a unique title page and dedication, Grew’s own book reconfigures his many unique organs of thought into a single unit – it is both an “Animal in Quires” and “many Plants bound into one Volume.” In this ostensibly homely analogy, then, Grew presents a comparative anatomy, an incipient physiology and, perhaps most interestingly, a theory of the book – all mediated through the physical structure of the codex. Life arises mysteriously from organized matter, Grew seems to be saying, in the same way immaterial concepts – life-altering, world-changing ideas – emerge from the mediated materiality of texts.
* * *
 Man as compendium; as the bud of the Book of Nature; as a landscape seeded with the texts of life. When Grew opens his magnum opus on plant physiology with the sentence, “So that a Plant is, as it were, an Animal in Quires; as an Animal is a Plant, or rather several Plants bound up into one Volume,” he does not indulge in strange or useless analogies; rather, he draws on a rich history of relating plants to animals, and animals to plants, using the metaphor of textuality. In fact, as Kay (2000) and van Rijn-van Tongeren (1997) argue, textual metaphors persist in biology today in the form of DNA synthesis and the genetic code. Grew’s sentence is no dead timber, then, but a living system of thought situated within a changing media ecology.
 As this tangle of ideas has shown, the history of science is always also a history of media – of how the objects, laws and mechanisms of our world come to be known as and through our own technologies. Much of the work in book history explores how the codex platform fomented particular epistemologies or social transformations; however, few scholars have focused on what Andrew Piper (2009) calls the “bibliographic imagination,” that is, the symbolic dimension of the book as embedded in a particular culture. In Grew’s work, as well as the bibliographic imagination of the seventeenth-century experimental philosophy writ large, the book not only literally disseminated ideas but also metaphorically inspired them. From the book of nature to the nature of the book, the material codex form was becoming a map of new worlds.
 This quote comes from the MS. Cotton Titus version edited by P. Hamelius for the EETS. The Pynson edition omits the final sentence.
 Adelmann translates this sentence: “there is present in the cicatrix a compendium of the animal, by which I mean the first outlines of the principal parts, or in other words, their outermost boundaries, which through the agency of growth become visible when motion has been communicated to the fluids and the cavities gradually fill and become turgid” (Adelmann, 1966, 867). I have modified his translation to emphasize Malpighi’s use of the words media and communicato.
 Note the similarity of Highmore’s theory to Darwin’s pangenetic notion of heredity.
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