FOREWORD by Dr CD Preston
Cambridgeshire botanists are justly proud of the long history of botanical study in their vice-county. The succession of county Floras is particularly noteworthy, as it begins with the very first representative of the genre, John Ray's Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium of 1660. The sheer richness of this heritage, however, brings its own problems. Assembling the records from the county of even a single species is a daunting task. Rare early books and their even rarer appendices and supplements can only be found in the best botanical libraries. Many important records are even more difficult to track down as they have never been published, notably the records in the priceless copies of Ray's, Martyn's and Relhan's Floras which were owned and annotated by their botanical successors.
The problems faced by those wanting historical plant records are particularly acute in Cambridgeshire, but will be recognised throughout the country. The demand for biological records has never been greater, and comes from a vast range of public and private bodies and individuals, including planning authorities, national conservation agencies, wildlife trusts and other local conservation groups, ecologists, environmental consultants, historians, students at schools and universities, and, perhaps most important of all, the botanists (mainly amateurs) who continue the long tradition of plant recording in England. In many cases the pressing demand is for instant access to plant records. In this catalogue Mrs Crompton has solved many of the problems faced by those requiring details of plant records from Cambridgeshire. Part I covers the nationally and locally rare and scarce plants recorded from the county, and includes all the records of these species made before 2000. These records are available to all on the internet, where they will be updated annually, but are also preserved in a more permanent medium in the printed volume.
There are few people in the country capable of compiling a catalogue such as this. At least three qualities are needed: the knowledge of the field botanist, the historian's ability to trace and extract printed and manuscript records, and a dogged determination to keep going for year after year until the work is done. Cambridgeshire botanists are fortunate that Mrs Crompton decided to undertake a task to which she is obviously so well suited, and will be grateful to her for making the results freely available to all. The catalogue is not just an arid list of records, but a remarkably browseable document containing many snippets which illuminate the methods, behaviour or character of the early botanists. I know that the catalogue will be immensely useful both locally and nationally. I can only hope that it will also encourage botanists in other counties to follow Mrs Crompton's splendid example.