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Re: VMS -- Botany (f34v) Prunus

Hello Nick,
     It seems that the best we can do in comparing the VMS to other documents is
to find a unique exact match in only the VMS and another document and then try to
date the VMS (say + or - 50 years; we wouldn't know who copied whom) around the
item matched in the separate document, assuming that we can accurately date that
other document. For now I am content to find close approximations in other
manuscripts that merely assit with the identifications of what appears in the VMS
(e.g. peach fruit vs. leaves). The key to everything in the VMS is no doubt a
translation of the text. There may, however, be certain revelations in the
identification of the plants which may aide in our attempts to narrow down the
period during which it might have been written. Identifying the plant in f50v as
Waratah (Telopea speciosissima; closest match so far) from New South Wales in
Australia, assuming that it is correct, could have a serious impact on selecting
a time period for when the VMS was written.

Dana Scott

Nick Pelling wrote:

> Hi Dana,
> // 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
> the VMS:-
>         http://sca.lib.liv.ac.uk/exhibitions/images/jars.gif
> Does anyone know what scene or shop this page represents? An apothecary or
> a herbalist?
> [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...
>         http://www.asu.edu/lib/speccoll/patten/html/120.html
> .....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...
>         http://www.hcs.ohio-state.edu/hort/history/029.html
> .....says...
>         "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 [1484] 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
> them...
>         http://www.hcs.ohio-state.edu/hort/history/028.html
> ......most notably the "Liber de Simplicibus" compiled by Benedetto Rinio
> from 1410:
>         "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
>         plants."
> 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:
> according to...
>         http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/programs/ahcs/ccmahAbstracts.htm
> .....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
> astrological.
> 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:-
>         http://www.hlz.hr/eng/povijest.html
> Time to dust down your glagolithic theories, perhaps? :-)
> Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
> PS: a nice comparison of a number of herbal woodcuts is...
>         http://www4.hmc.edu:8001/humanities/book/HUM2f2/illustrations.html
> PPS: a curious 1999 Indian reprint of Agnes Arber's 1912 book on herbals...
>         http://www.vedamsbooks.com/no15379.htm
> PPPS: I wonder if Elizabeth I's *bezoar stone* is still in existence?
>         http://www.asu.edu/lib/speccoll/patten/html/133.html