[Taxacom] ICNafp (Melbourne Code): some notes

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Tue May 28 02:58:05 CDT 2013

The Melbourne Code will go down in history because 
of the sweeping changes adopted in Melbourne, well 
publicized at the time. However, now that it has actually
appeared, it proves to hold some extra surprises.

There has been a considerable revision of terminology, 
beyond the changes adopted at Melbourne (such as 
"replacement name" (for "nomen novum"), and "name 
at new rank" (for "status novus")). We have now lost / 
gotten rid of "exsiccata" which was an undefined term 
that had been looking increasingly odd over the years. 
The "nomina utique rejicienda" have become "suppressed
names" (so that we no longer have to deal with two kinds
of "rejected names"). The "new name" has become a 
"nomenclatural novelty"; there was always some 
confusion between "new name" (any new name) and
"nomen novum" (a substitute name), so I suppose the
adoption of a new term was attractive to decrease 
confusion. Also, it is attractive for journals to be able
to use the distinctive heading "nomenclatural novelty" 
to list the new names in each issue instead of the 
deceptively simple "new names". Still, this does 
represent a biggish change, not only because the term 
does feel somewhat uncomfortable, but in the 
Vienna Code "nomenclatural novelty" was defined
differently, closer to the zoological "nomenclatural act". 
It would be nice to have an equivalent for the zoological
"nomenclatural act" in 'botany'.

A pleasant surprise is Art. 16.4, which always gave me 
a headache when I tried to understand it. The provison 
has been considerably shortened and has been limited 
in scope, and, especially, it now fits in Art. 16, instead 
of sticking out oddly.

The amendment to Art. 18.3 and 19.6 apparently did 
not get the asked-for editorial attention, or the Editorial
Committee got diverted by historical thinking, very 
much a dead end. The Example of Nartheciaceae 
(Art. 18 Ex. 7) is quite adequate to explain this. From 
a historical perspective
* Narthecium was published in 1762.
* Narthecium was conserved at the 1905, Vienna 
* the 1930 Cambridge Congress adopted the principle 
   of legitimacy / illegitimacy into the 1935, Cambridge Rules. 
   Historically, Narthecium never was an illegitimate name
   (missed this by a twenty-five, thirty year gap)
   (btw: Nartheciaceae was published in 1846).

Of course we are dealing not with a historical reality, but 
with a (retroactive) nomenclatural reality. 

Looking at the nomenclatural situation in, say, 1875:
* Narthecium in 1875 is (retroactively) an illegitimate 
   generic name
* Nartheciaceae, being based on this illegitimate generic 
   name, in 1875 is (retroactively) an illegitimate name. 

Contrast this with the nomenclatural situation in, say, 
* Narthecium in 1925 is a conserved name, and thus 
   legitimate (Art. 14.1)
* Nartheciaceae in 1925 is based on this legitimate 
   generic name, and thus there is no way that Art. 18.3 
   (either in the Vienna Code or in the Melbourne Code) 
   can apply to it. In 1925, there is no obstacle under 
   Art. 18 for the use of this name. The only way Art. 18.3 
   could be made to apply is if it were rewritten on the 
   model of Art. 52.1, but this would be strange thing to do, 
   as the whole purpose of conservation is that rules will 
   apply differently to a conserved name (or to a name 
   based on it), so that it can be used. It is a pity that 
   Art. 6.4 did undergo editorial alteration from what was 
   accepted by the Congress, as the accepted version was
   perfectly in order (it would have dealt with this situation
   no matter what is in Art 18.3 and 19.6) and the new 
   version is inoperative. 

A sad thing is the change in Art. 28 Note 4. Under the 
Vienna Code this Note was more or less accurate, but 
incomplete, and thus a little off-putting. The new Note 
is plain wrong, and the ICNCP ("Cultivated plant Code") 
could not be more explicit that this is so. Out of curiosity, 
I went back through past editions of the ICNCP, and 
I could find no edition, ever, no matter how old, under 
which it would have been correct.

The re-arrangement of Art. 32 to 45 appears to be a 
great improvement, although it is a lot to digest, and 
with a very heavy-looking Art. 38. Still, looking at it 
from a certain perspective, it has been remarkably 
conservative, with many provisions kept in their old 
sequence (just with some of the others interjected). 
Arguably it may have even been a little too conservative, 
as it retains Art. 38.1(b) (the old Art. 32.1(e)), 
although the thoroughness of the revision has made 
it completely redundant ... 


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