Georg Eberhard Rumpf was born in Germany to August Rumph and Anna Elisabeth Keller in 1627. The eldest of three children, he would grow up to create the first herbal of Indonesian plants and of Wallacea, an island region in eastern Indonesia that includes the Spice Islands.
The story behind the Ambonese Herbal is a long one and includes tales of many unfortunate events. The only reason we are fortunate enough to know about it today is because of the actions a few key people took many centuries ago and because of the incredible research by E.M. Beekman (1938-2008), a scholar of Dutch colonial literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who translated the Ambonese Herbal into English from its original Dutch and Latin text. It is from Beekman’s English translation and other resources that we will come to understand Rumphius’ life and contributions.
When we think about Georgius Everhardus Rumphius (1627-1702), this is the Latinized version of his name, we need to think of him as a soldier first and a naturalist second because he was really a botanist trapped in a soldier’s body. Born in a region of Germany devastated by the Thirty Years’ War, Rumphius knew war all of this life. To escape the devastation, he exercised the only option he had to get away from home — he joined the military to see the world. During his lifetime, Rumphius experienced three wars: the Thirty Years’ War, the Portuguese-Spanish War and the Ambonese War. He spent his military service fighting for Portugal and the Dutch East Indies Company. Rumphius’ military contract with the Dutch East Indies Company ended in 1657. At this time, he applied to work for the civil branch of the same company. Fluent in many languages (Dutch, German, Malay, Portuguese, the local Ambonese dialect plus a working knowledge of many other languages), Rumphius was an invaluable asset. Rumphius was assigned to the island of Ambon in 1657 and it was during this time that he began to write about the flora and fauna of this island.
Insights into Rumphius’ story will be shared this month here on this website, for he is our Feature Botanist for April. Welcome Rumphius!
For the first time, our featured guest is not living. I hope to bring him to life this month so that he becomes more than just one of those old names one encounters every so often when reading about natural history.
For an in-depth look at the Ambonese Herbal, you are invited to join me at the Southern California Spring Garden Show on April 27 (7-8 PM) where I will discuss Rumphius’ herbal and have all six volumes available for you to review.
Other Viewing Opportunities
The Ambonese Herbal can also be viewed at:
26th Annual Avocado Festival, Fallbrook, CA
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Visit ArtPlantae on the "Avenue of the Arts" at the wildly popular Avocado Festival. The herbal will be available for you to view. Stop by to see this special collection, plus other resources related to plants and botanical art. And don’t forget about the unlimited supplies of guacamole and avocado ice cream! Festival Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM. Location: Alvarado Street between Main & Vine (map)
GROW! A Garden Festival, Arcadia, CA
May 4-6, 2012
ArtPlantae will be in the Marketplace at this brand new venue. Stop by to say hello and to view The Ambonese Herbal in person. While at the festival, don’t miss the guest speakers, landscape designs, gardening activities for families and kids, plant sale, and many other activities planned for this fun weekend. Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM. (details)
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