le cabinet botanique

  • It is not surprising that Honnorat the philologist would know and show an interest in the plant names, for he was a tireless collector of the plants themselves, creating as comprehensive an herbarium of regional species as has ever existed. His herbarium is thought to have contained thousands of specimens. Many of these were collected in the heavily wooded mountainous area of Faillefeu, in the hills above the upper valley of the river Béone, and he presented a special two-volume herbarium to the landowner of the area who had facilitated his botanising there.
  • the botanical cabinet
    fig. 1 le cabinet de botanique, 2000
    [photo Peter Foolen, Eindhoven]
    This was a stroke of good fortune, for Honnorat's entire collections of geological and botanical specimens were thrown away, unwanted and unsaleable, when his son, who worked in textiles in Flanders, came, after his father's death, to clear out the doctor's house in Digne. These two beautiful volumes of c.1804, almost all that remains of Honnorat's botanic collections, are the centrepiece of the cabinet [de botanique en l'honneur du docteur honnorat], occupying a glass case in the middle of the room, with each week a new page turned.
  • At de vries's request the floor of the narrow oblong room is made of local early nineteenth-century tiles, discovered recently when repairs were undertaken in the museum, and the walls are panelled to dado height with walnut, the wood used locally over centuries in the facture of vernacular furniture. Above this, on the two longer walls, there are arranged 111 of de vries's own botanical 'real works' of various dimensions, framed in walnut and in free configurations that deliberately deny the paradigmatic ordering of nineteenth-century museum presentations.
    portrait Simon-Jude de Honnorat
    fig. 2 Simon-Jude de Honnorat
    This informal array is of specimens collected by herman and susanne in the woods and valleys of Faillefeu, with Honnorat in mind. They are plant self-portraits, each plant 'saying itself', each at once a document and an image, of itself: nature has become art and their irregular configuration signals their status as distinct from that of the scientifically systematic herbarium of which the two volumes in the room were a part.
  • The installation is perfectly completed by a contemporary portrait of Dr. Honnorat brought into the light after long exile in the museum storerooms. He is pictured, gravely handsome seated at his work table, quill pen in hand, working on the introduction to his Dictionnaire provençal-Français. Behind him on a shelf, as attributes, are piled three stout volumes: Linnaeus, Hippocrates and Jean de La Fontaine.
    Passage from Mel Gooding, herman de vries : chance and change (Thames and Hudson : London 2006) 117. © Mel Gooding; courtesy Mel Gooding.
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simon-jude de honnorat

Simon-Jude de Honnorat (1783-1852) was born in Haut-Villard, April 3, 1783. After studying medicine in Grenoble and Paris, Honnorat established in 1808 in Digne. Physician, botanist, naturalist, philologist and writer, Simon-Jude Honnorat is the founder in 1838 of the Annales des Basses-Alpes, where he published numerous studies. But his 'magnum opus' remains the Provence-French dictionary, published in 1846-47. Simon-Jude Honnorat died in Digne July 30, 1852.

online available:
Dictionnaire provençal-français (Digne 1846-47).


Two pages from Honnorat's Herbier de la fôret de Faillefeu (2 volumes, 1804), displayed in the le cabinet de botanique en l'honneur du docteur honnorat at the Museum Gassendi, Digne-les-Bains.

pages from the herbarium


Cees de Boer, 'Lebenskunst, die Sprache der Welt zu gewahren', in exhibition catalogue herman de vries : all this here / [Redaktion Barbara Strieder] (Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland : Bedburg Hau 2009) 29-33.

Nadine Gomez, 'herman de vries et Digne, archives', in exhibition catalogue herman de vries (Fage Éditions : Lyon / Musée Gassendi : Digne-les-Bains 2009) 190-209.

Mel Gooding, A Point on the Surface of the Earth : two renaissance philosophers, a contemporary artist and a walk in the woods. The Rodd Lecture 2009 (Institute of Humanities & Creative Arts, University of Worcester : 2011) 24 p. (ill.).


site of the Musée Gassendi provides a short video about herman de vries and the botanical cabinet of dr honnorat.