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Re: VMS -- Botany (f34v) Prunus
// Long email follows, but please stick with it :-) //
The link you gave to the University of Liverpool's Latinised version of the
Gart der Gesundheit had a nice picture from it... within which I noticed
lots of jars on the shelves, looking (to my eyes) like
[geometrically-decorated] archaic maiolica albarelli, similar to those in
Does anyone know what scene or shop this page represents? An apothecary or
[BTW: according to my dictionary, "barrel" is derived from the French
"baril", but "albarelli" seems remarkably close as well... just a thought.]
Also: your first link...
.....says that, in the Gart der Gesundheit...
"There were 379 woodcuts designed especially for this work,
with 65 being faithful renditions of plant specimens. The
remaining illustrations were copied from earlier sources."
So: the Hortus Sanitatus was an incunabulum (in part) derived from the Gart
der Gesundheit: and 314 of the GdG's woodcut's were derived from earlier
works. In fact...
"the Gart der Gesundheit - 400 illustrations, published in 1485.
This herbal was a compilation worked out by the printer. The
text was partly based on Herbarius Latinus  but the figures
were printed from new and more accurate cuts."
I'm far from comfortable [yet] with the idea that the VMS are definitely
derived from (and hence post-date) either the GdG or the Herbarius: the
similarities are (so far) fairly slim, and strike me more like those that
would arise from sharing a common ancestor.
So: I suspect we may need to go back yet further if at all possible to find
the spring from whence the VMS' botanical ideas flowed - to earlier
(implicitly less accurate) cuts.
For example, the Herbarium of Apuleius (published 1481/1483 in Rome)
"...originally printed in 1481 in the precincts of the Vatican by
Joannes Philippus de Lignamine, a physician and courtier to
Pope Sixtus IV. Little is known about the author who is believed
to have lived around 400 A.D. The seemingly crude illustrations
of plants are believed by some to represent a late Roman school
of sophisticated stylization. In any event, the work is of tremendous
importance since it is the first printed herbal with illustrations."
The Corning collection has a copy of the 1483 second edition in the Holden
Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio - have you checked this out for similarities?
Or a bit further back: Von Megenberg's 1475-ish translation of Thomas of
Cantimbre's 13th Century "De Natura Rerum" was printed under the title "Das
Buch (Puch) der Natur", and this is really where printed (woodcut) herbals
seem to have begun (please correct me if I'm wrong).
But still, there's one large nagging doubt in my mind about the assumption
behind this: that the VMS were produced by someone who had access to
printed books. To me, the VMS' code, alphabet and writing all feel like
they were the product of an ordered mind - yet the VMS' text layout is
frequently skewed, not at all rectilinear... and doesn't give me any
indication of that same ordered mind having been exposed to the *idea* of
the printed page.
I'm going to stick my neck out and say: I think the VMS pre-date printing
(but only just), so looking for similarities in printed documents may not
get you all the way to the answer you want. :-/
[I'm sorry it's not a more fully-formed argument at this time: if you agree
or disagree, please say!]
But other herbals were definitely around: here's a page describing some of
......most notably the "Liber de Simplicibus" compiled by Benedetto Rinio
"The most outstanding herbal of this period was that compiled by
Benedetto Rinio in Venice in 1410. This herbal was illustrated by
440 magnificent plates by the Venetian artist, Andrea Amadio.
This involved 450 domestic and 111 foreign plants. Brief notes
included season of collection, part of plant containing the drug,
the authorities used and the name of each plant in Latin, Greek,
German, Arabic, the various Italian dialects, as well as Slavonic.
The purpose was to assist herbalists in gathering correct plants.
"At this time Venice was especially noted as the center of the
drug trade between East and West. His herbal was the authority
in the many apothecary shops as well as the authority in identifying
Now *that* looks like it would be the grand-daddy of that whole generation
of herbals. BTW: the "Liber de simplicibus" held by the NLM appears to be a
separate book entirely [again, please correct me if I'm wrong]. Now:
.....a pretty relevant-looking paper was presented in Mar 2001, at the 21st
Canadian Conference of Medieval Art :-
Hoeniger, Cathleen (Queen's University): The Rise of Artistic and
'Scientific' Naturalism in Two North-Italian Herbals c. 1400.
My paper on the rise of naturalism during the late medieval-early
Renaissance period will consider parallel developments in artistic
representations of plants and the concurrent "scientific" study of
botany. The focus will be on two remarkable and inter-related
herbals produced in the Veneto in the period c. 1390-1450.
These are the Paduan Carrara Herbal (British Museum, London)
and the Venetian Liber de Simplicibus or so-called "Rinio Herbal"
(Bibl. Marciana, Venice). The ground-breaking naturalism in the
illustrations for both herbals will be related to the study of botany
and medicine at the University of Padua, and also to the active
empirical study of medical botany, necessitated by the
pharmaceutical industry in Venice.
Yup, you can bet I'll do my best to check out the Paduan Carrara Herbal at
the British Museum. :-) Though Bibl. Marciana in Venice is a little out of
my range for the moment. :-/
I think these would almost certainly be two excellent places to start
comparing the botanicals in the VMS: my guess is that the Liber de
Simplicibus would (by the time of the VMS) have become almost a cliche, a
given. Even if the VMS' diagrams aren't themselves copies, perhaps they
refer to the LdS in some way - perhaps metaphorical, or allegorical, or
However, I should perhaps also point out that there appears to be a
*Croatian* version of the "Liber de Simplicibus" extant, which seems to be
a source of inspiration to all those Croat lexicographers out there:-
Time to dust down your glagolithic theories, perhaps? :-)
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
PS: a nice comparison of a number of herbal woodcuts is...
PPS: a curious 1999 Indian reprint of Agnes Arber's 1912 book on herbals...
PPPS: I wonder if Elizabeth I's *bezoar stone* is still in existence?