This is a handsome volume of double-columned pages, quality paper, wide margins, and easy-to-read type. It makes available 45 of an even larger number of papers presented at a 1982 Cádiz symposium marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of José Celestino Mutis. This native of Cádiz is chiefly remembered for the scientific work he pioneered in New Granada (1760-1808), where he headed the Royal Botanical Expedition, corresponded with leading European scientists, and formed a generation of Colombian intellectuals and leaders. Symbolic of his effort and of our inability to appreciate totally the magnitude of it is the fact that 42 volumes have been projected to publish the 6,701 water colors of New Granadian flora done under his direction and that only 6 of the volumes have appeared.
The papers in this volume are almost an all-Spanish production in authorship, subject matter, and sources—there are no Colombians or other Latin Americans evident among the presenters—and, even more curiously, only 5 of the 45 papers are on Mutis. Nevertheless, some of Spain’s leading historians of science, biology, pharmacology, botany, and physics make contributions. As a result, readers will find, up to the 1982 date of the symposium, the latest thinking, work, and bibliography on the introduction and development of modern science in Spain. For example, Juan Esteva de Sagrera suggests that Benito Feijoo’s role in the Spanish Enlightenment came not because he represented the most advanced position of that movement—as did the persecuted Diego Mateo Zapata, Mateo Orfila, and Luis José Proust—but because he could be assimilated more easily by the Spanish establishment. The latter felt more comfortable with Feijoo’s pronounced Catholicism and anti-Semitism. Other contributors offer crisp papers on the Spanish scientific expeditions of the eighteenth century. Additional subjects are more diverse and even far afield, such as the architecture of Cádiz and current Spanish flora and fauna.
For those interested in the Enlightenment or the history of science in Latin America, this work will be a useful point of departure for the Spanish background and for the Spanish formation of Mutis and others. But it should be reemphasized that this volume uses Spanish sources almost exclusively and has a distinctly non-American focus. This is in contrast to the volume edited by Enrique Pérez Arbeláez (Bogotá, 1938) on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mutis, in which both Colombians and Spaniards made contributions.