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Whence Tree Names

Whence Tree Names

by Nicholas Von Robison

Originally published in American Lutherie #31, 1992 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume Three, 2004

What’s in a name?” cries Juliet; “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Yet Shakespeare might admit that a rose is not less sweet because we know its name. The system of binomial nomenclature is one of the best inventions. It is effective; it is beautiful in its simplicity. A luthier in New York may talk of trees and wood to a luthier in Faroffistan with precision and mutual understanding. Centuries are tied together between us and the many careful observers hundreds of years ago who left good records in aristocratic Latin, when the common vernacular language was considered not to be a sufficient medium for such learning. To know the names of the forms of life is one of the keenest satisfactions; it brings us into relationship with our materials in another facet of our fascinating occupation. Every binomial has meaning; it is uniquely significant. Consider...

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