Petiver, James

, a famous English botanist, was contemporary with Plukenet; but the exact time of his birth is not known, nor is much intelligence concerning him at present to be obtained. His profession was that of an apothecary, to which he was apprenticed under Mr. Feltham, then apothecary to St. Bartholomew’s hospital. When he entered into business for himself, he settled in Aldersgatestreet, and there continued for the remainder of his life. He obtained considerable business, and after a time became apothecary to the Charter-house. After the Tradescants, he appears to have been the only person, except Mr. Courten, and sir Hans Sloane, who made any considerable collection in Natural History, previous to those of the present day. He engaged the captains and surgeons of ships to bring him home specimens, and enabled them to select proper objects by printed directions which he distributed among them. By these means his collection became so valuable, that, some time before his death, sir Hans Sloane offered him four thousand pounds for it. After his death, it was purchased by the same collector, and now makes part of the British Museum, where they | are frequently resorted to for the sake of ascertaining obscure synonyms, his plates being so generally cited by Linnæus, and in many instances so insufficient to express the precise object intended. He was elected into the royal society, and becoming acquainted with Ray, assisted him in arranging the second volume of his History of Plants. He died April 20, 1718, and much honour was shewn to him at his funeral, by the attendance of sir Hans Sloane, and other eminent men, as pall-bearers, &c.

He gave the world several publications on various subjects of natural history: 1. “Musei Petiveriani Centuriae decem,1692 1703, 8vo. 2. “Gazophylacii Naturae jet Artis, Decades decem,1702, folio, with 100 plates. 8. “A Catalogue of Mr. Ray’s English Herbal, illustrated with figures,1713, folio, and continued in 1715. Many smaller publications may be found enumerated in Dr. Pulteney’s Sketches, with many papers in the Philosophical Transactions, and a material article in the third volume of Ray’s work, entitled “Plantae rariores Chinenses Madraspatanae, et Africanae, a Jacobo Petivero ad opus consummandum collatae,” &c. Most of his lists and catalogues having become very scarce, they were collected and published in 1767, in 2 vols. fol. 1


Pulteney’s Sketches. —Rees’s Cyclopædia, by sir J. E. Smith.