A brief history of the Code

    The history of the Code that governs the scientific names of algae, fungi,
and plants (traditionally named the botanical Code) may be taken to have
started in 1867, although nomenclature itself obviously is considerably older. 
Indeed it is characteristic of the Code that it is a set of retroactive rules,
governing names that (mostly) were published before the Code that governs
them.  In many ways the Code is a codification of nomenclatural practice rather
than an independently growing set of rules.  This aspect of retroactiveness
makes the subject of nomenclature such a delicate one:  a change in a rule may
instantly wipe out a long-existing name or may resurrect a name that has not
existed for a long time.

    For convenience’s sake the Codes since 1867 may be subdivided into three
groups, published in three time periods:
    1)  the ‘initially French’ period, 1906-1935, with John Briquet as the central
figure (succeeded by T.A. Sprague).  In this period, proposals to amend the
Rules were supposed to be  “in Latin, English, French, German, or Italian”
(submitted in one hundred copies).  The Synopsis (Recueil synoptique) and
the Proceedings were entirely in French, up to, and including, the 1930,
Cambridge Congress.  The three editions of the Rules were each published in
three languages, but for the 1906 and 1912 Règles internationales de la
Nomenclature botanique
the French version had pride of place.  In the third
edition (1935), edited by A.B. Rendle, the English version had become the
primary one, as the International rules of botanical nomenclature, although
the preface was in German.  In this period, the Rules / Règles were published
by Gustav Fischer Verlag, in Jena, and were orange-coloured paperbacks (or
were included in orange-coloured paperbacks). By content, this is the period
of getting things together (getting international agreement and settling the
basic structure of the system of names: priority, the type-method, effective
publication, valid publication, legitimacy).
    2)  the ‘Dutch’ or ‘Utrecht’ period, ca. 1950-1983, with Joseph Lanjouw and
Frans Stafleu as central figures.  In this period the Code, as the International
Code of Botanical Nomenclature
, continued to be published in three languages
(mostly:  the 1952, Stockholm Code lacked a German version, while the 1956,
Paris Code also included a Spanish version), but with the English version
having pride of place.  In this period, the Code was published in Utrecht, and
always is a separately printed book, cloth (an occasional reprint in buckram),
typically dark blue (the 1956, Paris Code was more reddish, being purple), up
until the 1978, Leningrad Code, which is the first of the multi-coloured Codes.
By content, this is the period of getting properly organized (starting the IAPT,
Taxon, Regnum Vegetabile, the ING, TL-2).
    3)  the English-only period, ca. 1988 onwards, with as central figures Werner
Greuter and John McNeill.  In this period, the Code is published in a single
language, English.  The layout of the Code had started to change with the 1978,
Leningrad Code and continued to evolve.  The 2012, Melbourne Code may
represent the start of a new period, as it has a new title (the International Code
of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants
), is new in that is published in two
separate volumes and has a changed layout that in some respects is new, but in
others represents a return to the Rules.  In this period, publication of the Code is
in the hands of Sven Koeltz, and always is a separately printed book (two books
in the case of the Melbourne Code), a hardcover (shifting from cloth to a glossy
hardback with the 2006, Vienna Code), every time in a different colour. By
content, this is a period of renewed change and growth.

    These periods are not marked by sharp breaks in all respects:  the ‘Dutch’ or
‘Utrecht’ period may be taken to have started with the 1948 Utrecht conference,
but the 1950 Amsterdam Supplement was published later than that, not much
before the publication of the 1950 Synopsis of proposals. The Amsterdam
is odd in several respects being only a supplement (not a full Code)
and published only in English;  it was compiled by Sprague, and included in a
volume edited by Lanjouw, which was printed in the U.S.A.  However, the
‘Dutch’ or ‘Utrecht’ period certainly started no later than with the 1950,
Stockholm Congress, when the IAPT was founded. 
    The linguistic issue is not all that clearcut either. The Recueil synoptique and
the Proceedings were entirely in French, up to, and including, the Cambridge
Congress (but the resultant Rules used English as the prime language).  They
were entirely in English for the Amsterdam and Stockholm Congresses.  For
the Paris Congress, the Recueil synoptique was both in French and English
(side by side) while the Proceedings were in three languages (each speaking in
his own language, down from four languages at the Congress, the Spanish being
translated; proposals in Spanish had been allowed, accompanied by an English,
or French, translation).  Proposals in a language other than English were allowed
up to, and including, the 1981, Sydney Congress. 
    The second transition is also gradual in the sense that the involvement of
Stafleu decreased gradually, and that the change in typography also is gradual. 
Greuter left the Editorial Committee after the St Louis Code, to return for the
Melbourne Code.

An outline of changes in the Code

    The following highlights only the most notable changes in the Code;  a
much more detailed account of changes may be found in the Prefaces of the
respective Codes.

    The 1867 Lois, aka the Candollean Laws, or the Paris Rules, adopted by
the 1867, Paris Congress, started to put botanical nomenclature on a formal
footing and were the focus of intense debate.  This debate resulted in the
appointment of a Rapporteur général (then unhyphened) at the 1900, Paris
Congress (I IBC) with the task to organize the debate.  In the meantime there
had been an (unofficial) 1883 update.

    The 1905, Vienna Congress (II IBC) saw the start of an international Code
(the 1906, Vienna Rules), even if at the time it was not universally followed. 
It saw a formal decision on the starting point of botanical nomenclature, namely
the Species Plantarum of 1753 (and not the Genera Plantarum of 1737), and on
the so-named “Kew Rule”, which was not included.  What was included was the
principle of conservation of names (protecting selected names from the normal
working of the rules) although only for names at the rank of genus.

    The 1910, Brussels Congress (resulting in the 1912, Brussels Rules, aka the
International Rules, ed. 2) was relatively quiet.  Those who felt left out by the
“chiefly of Vascular Plants” in the title of the 1905 Rules asked for attention for
their respective groups.  The new Rules saw the introduction of specified starting
points, for each of the different groups, and started to take notice of special needs
for groups such as fossils and fungi, including the introduction of what would,
half a century later, become Art. 59.

    The 1930, Cambridge Congress (resulting in the 1935, Cambridge Rules,
aka the International Rules, ed. 3) was again very notable, a place for major
reconciliation:  the clash with the adherents of the American Code was resolved. 
This had been preceded by a decade of work, especially by Sprague (aiming at a
unified “World-Code”) and Hitchcock (presenting the “Type-basis Code”), laid
down in a single set of proposals (actually a proposed complete replacement,
which over the history of the Code happened half a dozen times, with the
Philadelphia / American Code probably the most famous; most such proposed
replacements were notably unsuccessful).  Very many of these proposals were
accepted at Cambridge, while others found their way into the Code later.
Important concepts like the type-method, effective publication, valid publication,
legitimacy and illegitimacy were accepted here.  The option of conserving names
was extended to include names of families.  The general principle of a caretaker
International Executive Committee (later renamed as the General Committee)
was adopted here, to take care of general coordination and to carry on in case of
war.  The Cambridge Rules also saw the introduction of the term “tautonym”
(dealing with a point of difference with the American Code).

    The 1935, Amsterdam Congress (the only Congress not resulting in a full
Code, but only in the unofficial 1947, Brittonia Rules and the official but
minimalistic 1950, Amsterdam Supplement, the latter of which is represented
here by the ‘Amsterdam Rules’ (synthesis)) again was relatively quiet, mostly
confirming the changes made at Cambridge, and tidying up matters left over
from the Cambridge Congress such as the rule on provisional names. It also saw
the adoption of what has now grown into Rec. 50A to 50F, and it was here that
a list of conserved family names was first adopted by the Congress, although it
was discontinued in the 1956, Paris Code (the 1959 Congress adopted a new list).

    The 1950, Stockholm Congress (resulting in the 1952, Stockholm Code, the
first to use “Code” in the title), was, again, one of the big turning points, with the
founding of a supporting organisation, the IAPT, with its own journal Taxon, and
its own book series, Regnum Vegetabile, which would take care of publishing all
proposals to amend the Code and proposals to protect names (at this stage these
were still proposals to amend the Code).
         The process of amending the Code was also altered here: up until this time
only matters not dealt with by previous Congresses could be proposed, but
Lanjouw opened this up.  He also instituted the preliminary mail vote.
         The 1952, Stockholm Code was published in blue cloth (that is, as a
hardback), as opposed to the Rules which had been published as softbacks, in
orange wrappers.  The layout and typography were also changed dramatically,
changes which did not all stay, but it was here that Recommendations got the
same number (plus a letter) as the Article they were following.  Also, the 1952,
Stockholm Code has the most Articles of any edition of the Code, and the most
dealing with separate topics;  the content of these Appendices
would later be integrated into the body of the Code, finally leaving only a single
survivor:  the Appendix on names of hybrid taxa
         An important change in the rules was the adoption of the autonym concept
(although at that stage the term “autonym” was not used;  this was only
introduced with the 1972, Seattle Code).  It was here also, that “taxon” became
the accepted term for “taxonomic group”.  The option of conserving names was
extended to all names from the rank of order to genus (although in practice this
was never followed up by the actual conservation of any name in the newly
added ranks). 

    The 1954, Paris Congress (resulting in the 1956, Paris Code) is mostly noted
for completing the changes started in Stockholm.  The Synopsis of Proposals was
given the format surviving to this day.  The same applies to the basic format of
the Code, with its three “Divisions” and the new “Preamble” and “Principles”,
these last were created by the conversion of Art. 1 to 11.  It was at this point that
two important principles were lost:  “The essential points in nomenclature are: 
[...] to aim at fixity of names”  and  “The rules of nomenclature should be
simple and founded on considerations sufficiently clear and forcible for everyone
to comprehend and be disposed to accept”.  The Div.  III on the governance of the
Code was completely new, although building somewhat on what had been
accepted at Cambridge, but had been dropped in the Stockholm Code.  It also saw
the introduction of what is now Art. 60.12.

    The 1959, Montreal Congress eliminated the Appendix on fossils (introduced
with the 1952, Stockholm Code) and integrated its provisions into the body of the
Code.  It was decided not to have priority apply to names above the rank of
family; the option of conserving names was adjusted accordingly, to be restricted
to names at the ranks of family down to genus.  A new list of conserved family
names was adopted (the previous one, of the 1935 Congress, had been dropped
from the Paris Code).

    The most notable changes at the 1964, Edinburgh Congress were a revision
of Art. 59 and of the provisions on hybrid taxa.  An attempt to get extraterrestrial
plants included in the Code was dealt with summarily.

    The 1969, Seattle Congress saw the introduction of the term autonym, while
at the same time limiting the autonym principle to taxa that include the type of
a family, genus or species (that is, it no longer applied to taxa that include the
type of the next-higher taxon).  The 1972, Seattle Code is the final edition in a
series, 1952 to 1972, of very similar-looking books (cloth, at the same size, all
blue, except the 1956, Paris Code, which is purplish);  succeeding the 1906 to
1935 Rules, which were orange paperbacks, at a larger size).

    From the perspective of looks and typography, the 1978, Leningrad Code
represents a big change:  it introduced the latter-day tradition of a differently
coloured cover with every edition and introduced numbering of all paragraphs,
instead of just the Articles (and Recommendations).  At the same time, many
Notes were formally upgraded to Rules (which they had been already, in all
but form);  of course, some Notes remained just that:  from this point onwards
a Note is something that only explains something that is ruled elsewhere.  A
change of substance is that here the option was created, although execution
remained on an ad interim basis, of formally proposing a name for rejection,
these rejected names to be placed on a List.  Another change of substance was
the addoption of rules standardizing the orthography of ‘personal’ epithets (it
was here that Magnolia ×soulangiana became Magnolia ×soulangeana), also
causing traditional epithets like berteri, lourieri, etc to be changed to berteroi
and lourieroi, etc.  The Leningrad Code dropped the “Guide to citation of
botanical nomenclature
” (introduced with the 1952, Stockholm Code).

    From a typographic viewpoint the 1983, Sydney Code continued the policy
of numbering that had been adopted in the preceding edition, and in addition
also numbered all the Examples (per Article);  presumably this may be taken as
the starting point for the latter-day proliferation of Examples.  However, the
1981, Sydney Congres also made many substantial changes:  it eliminated the
option of conserving names between the ranks of family and genus but created
the possibility to conserve names of species, although only for species of major
economic importance;  protecting names of species had been a point of
contention for a long time (for instance, it had been a hot issue at the 1930 and
1935 Congresses).  The Sydney Congress accepted the concept of “sanctioning”
for names of fungi, and saw a revision of, again, Art. 59, and of the provisions
on hybrid taxa.  It also introduced provisions on orthographical variants, as well
as many smaller changes (for example “botanists” became “authors”);  this was
the Congress where Dysoxylum fraseranum became Dysoxylum fraserianum.

    From a typographic viewpoint, the 1988, Berlin Code is perhaps the most
indifferent Code ever produced.  It is also a notably slim volume, being
produced in a single language, English.  By content, notable changes were the
upgrading of the Recommendation on gender to an Article and the removal of
the  “Guide for the determination of types”  (introduced with the 1952,
Stockholm Code), integrating its contents in the body of the Code.

    The 1994, Tokyo Code shows a major upheaval.  What had been Art. 51 to
72 were shaken up, maintaining only Art. 59 under its traditional number.  Of
these, Art. 51 to 61 were mostly eliminated, with much of the material
absorbed by Art. 7 to 11, while Art. 62 to 69 and 72 were mostly resettled as
the new Art. 51 to 58.  This left the body of the Code with 62 Articles only, the
lowest number since 1912.  A major change was the adoption of the principle
of registration, but contingent upon acceptance by the next Congress.  Another
important change was the removal of the restriction in the conservation of
names of species (no longer only for species of major economic importance)
and the adoption of a separate Article on sanctioned names (names of fungi
that enjoy a special status).  The option of formally proposing a name for
rejection was modified;  from this point onwards a name could be rejected for
any reason.  Also, it became possible to suppress a work (a publication), also
an issue long debated:  names in such a suppressed work (in specified ranks)
are not validly published (that is, they don’t exist, as botanical names).  It was
at this point that ligatures such as “æ” stopped being an allowable component
of botanical names.  Typographical changes were the adoption of consistent
italics for all botanical names (at all ranks), rather than just some of the time,
as well as for the word “Code”.  Also, three different font-sizes were used, for
Articles, Recommendations (& Notes) and Examples, respectively. There was
also a change in the author citation of botanical names, including the adoption
of the standard set out in the book by Brummitt and Powell.

    The 1999, St Louis Congress is best known as the Congress that firmly
removed the concept of registration from the Code.

    The biggest change at the 2005, Vienna Congress (resulting in the 2006,
Vienna Code), was the introduction of the option of formally submitting
names for evaluation of the adequacy of the description or diagnosis for the
purposes of valid publication (the “nomina subnuda” issue).  Another issue
that was settled here is that of the thesis, other than as part of a series:  a thesis
is accepted as effectively published if there is evidence that it was intended to
be effectively published (an ISBN number is such evidence);  this change is
retroactive , and has the potential for surprising effects.  Other noticeable
changes were the new glossary and a shiny cover (first ever) instead of cloth
(the opportunity to produce this in orange, in honour of the 1906, Vienna
, was sadly missed).

    The 2011, Melbourne Congress was one of major change.  The title of the
Code was changed, again.  Electronic publication was allowed (in an online
publication that has an ISSN/ISBN number and that uses the pdf format), as
well as a choice of either English or Latin for the description or diagnosis for
new taxa in all groups (neither change being retroactive).  The special
provisions for fungi and fossils were simplified (and “fossil plants” and
“subfossil” eliminated as terms).  On the other hand an extra requirement was
adopted for publication of names of fungi, involving deposition of key data at
a central depository.  A degree of protection for names between the ranks of
family and genus was accepted.  A large-scale replacement of technical terms
relating to nomenclatural concepts took place.  This again is a slim volume
(although bulked up by the use of thicker paper), as most of the Appendixes
are to be published separately.  Typographically, it also is innovative, with
more white space than is traditional.

Paul van Rijckevorsel
Utrecht, 2014

2014 ©, Paul van Rijckevorsel   (all rights reserved)
most recent update:  July 2018