"Volume170: De Gallis- On Galls.By Marcello Malpighi. Facsimile together with a Translation and Interpretation by Margaret Redfern, Alexander J.Cameron and Kevin Down. 2008."
Plant galls are remarkable objects, often beautiful and sometimes bizarre. They are formed of plant tissue but are caused by another organism, usually an insect or a mite, and, thus, they straddle the worlds of botany and zoology. Knowledge of galls has a long history, since the 5th century B.C. First used as herbal medicines and later for dyeing cloth and leather and for ink-making, their true nature remained obscure until well into the 19th century — they, and the creatures inside, were generally regarded as objects of superstition, arising by spontaneous generation.
Against this background of ignorance, Malpighi's De Gallis, published in 1679, is a remarkable work. He investigated gall structure and studied galls as they grew, describing and illustrating them so accurately that most of them can be recognized today. Thereafter, knowledge regressed; Malpighi's understanding of galls reached levels not attained again for 200 years. His understanding gave the study of galls a scientific basis well ahead of its time, and it is with justification that Malpighi is recognised as the father of cecidology.
Although most of the galls Malpighi described are on oak trees, he also looked at galls on other plants, herbaceous species as well as other trees. Most galls familiar to him are caused by cynipid wasps, which he saw emerging from their galls as well as laying eggs in buds. But he appreciated too that other creatures could cause galls, other insects and mites, although he did not name them specifically.
The core of this work is De Gallis, one of the chapters of Malpighi's major work on plants, Anatomes Plantarum, and richly illustrated with 67 figures in 15 plates. This was published in 1679 by the Royal Society of London, and a facsimile of the first edition is included here. A translation of the original Latin follows the facsimile with an interpretation interleaved on facing pages. This allows the translation to lead directly to the recognition of each gall that Malpighi described and enables any difficult or obscure parts of the text to be explained. Most of the galls are illustrated in colour, allowing direct comparison between Malpighi's drawings and modern images.
The importance of De Gallis in the history of natural history is indisputable. It is remarkable that, in the l7thcentury, Malpighi's understanding of galls and how they developed is close to modern interpretations. De Gallis has not received the recognition it deserves because the Latin text remained inaccessible to most people. This English translation and interpretation of the galls familiar to Malpighi should make De Gallis and its meticulous illustrations available to a wider audience.
The figures on the dust jacket are from the facsimile of De Gallis (Tab. X, Figs. 32 and 33 and Tab, XX, Fig. 72). They depict, in the centre, the adult female of the oak apple gall wasp, surrounded by the growing and mature oak apple: (from the top left, clockwise) the bud with eggs soon after they were laid; the growing gall with remains of eggshells; the full-grown gall with holes made by emerged gall wasps and parasitoids; and a section through the oak apple with chambers enclosing the larvae.
About the authors:
Margaret Redfern has studied plant galls for most of her adult life. She graduated from Reading University in 1963, and studied part-time for higher degrees while teaching natural history and ecology to undergraduate and sixth form students and to adult amateurs. Her MSc research involved Urophora stylata (Tephritidae) and its galls in spear thistle heads and she gained her PhD in 1973 with a thesis on the population dynamics of Taxotnyia taxi (Cecidornyiidae) on yew. She has published more than twenty books and papers, the most recent on a long-term study of T. taxi, whose populations she has been monitoring over the last 40 years. In recent years, she has devoted more time to the natural history of galls, publishing identification keys to British galls in 2002, and she is currently preparing a volume on Plant Galls in Harper Collins' New Naturalists' series.
Alexander Cameron graduated in 1997 from Oxford University with a degree in French and Italian. The Italian part of the course included both detailed coverage of the linguistic development of Italian from popular Latin and study of medieval Italian literature, especially Dante's Divine Comedy, which required extensive understanding of contemporary historical documents in medieval Latin. He has also translated, from the German, Medieval Building Techniques, a compendium of graphic portrayals of medieval construction workers, tools and practices, for Tempus Publishing (2004). Since graduating, he has worked as a book editor and typesetter. (He is the son of Margaret Redfern.)
Kevin Down is a graduate of the University of Birmingham where he read Medieval and Modern History. He worked for some years as a research assistant on A New History of Ireland, volume II (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1987), to which he contributed a chapter on society and the economy of the Lordship of Ireland. He has recently revisited this interest with an article on Agriculture and the manorial economy of county Carlow in the late thirteenth century'. He has also published on aspects of the diocese of Worcester under its Italian bishops (1497-1535) and he is currently preparing an edition of the register of Bishop Geronimo de' Ghinucci (1522-1535). For thirty years he was a resident tutor and lecturer in medieval history in the Department of Extramural Studies of the University of Birmingham and taught adults at many centres in the West Midlands and Border Country.