Dodart claimed that the Mémoires des plantes was the first stage of a more comprehensive study of plants and a showpiece of collaboration.
Both claims were only partly correct. The Academy never published the natural history of plants as conceived, and its cooperative research foundered on personal and substantial quarrels. Several problems imperiled the project. There was no perfect correspondence between descriptions and illustrations, with some plants described but not engraved and others engraved but not described. Funding was inadequate. Academicians disagreed about the style and content of descriptions, had to invent a botanical vernacular, and lacked simple criteria for selecting plants. Despite repeated revisions, illustrations remained inadequate and descriptions did not reflect the Academy's recommendations. The surviving notes reveal disagreements and delays in correcting problems.
Still another issue — the chemical analysis of plants — divided academicians and jeopardized the natural history. Academicians' expectations and difficulties form the subject of the next chapter, which explains why they persisted with such recalcitrant research.