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Re: VMS -- Doctrine of Signatures

Hi Dana,

Here is a nice article on "The Doctrine of Signatures" that may help
provide some insight into the Nature of the VMS.


Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the Doctrine of Signatures was rather more literalistic than as presented in this article: it's more about Culpeper's herbal astrology, and that was basically a populist version of the "London Pharmacopoeia" (first edition 1616, IIRC).

AIUI, the DoS was the idea (revived by Paracelsus about 1530 or so, but had been dormant for several centuries before that) that plants with a particular visual affinity with a disease were placed on Earth in order that the similarity be recognised by man as a sign that that was the plant to treat an ailment. Basically, if the cap fits, eat it and be cured. :-)

In the case of lungwort, the speckles on the leaves (so the theory goes) are a sign that it should be taken be those with lung problems. And so on.

The lungwort identification in the VMS is a curious (yet probably highly demonstrative) one. The spots are stylised, quite unlike any actual lungwort - as if the plant was being drawn by someone who had only heard (or read) it described (perhaps a town-dweller?), or was drawing to emphasise the spot in a very stylised way.

Still, I'm quite comfortable with the idea that the inclusion of lungwort could be read as a possible indication that the Doctrine Of Signatures is one of the sources of information the VMS contains. Is this what you're saying? :-)

I wonder - if Paracelsus is too late for the VMS, does anyone know from what person or source Paracelsus learnt of the Doctrine Of Signatures? Perhaps by tracing this backwards in time, we may be able to tie down the provenance of the VMS from yet another direction. :-)

Just a thought. :-)

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....