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VMS -- Botany (f34v) Prunus

     When examining the drawing of the plant in f34v I kept thinking
that the leaves looked rather unusual and wondered what kind of leaves
they might represent. Last weekend I visited the Helen Crocker Russell
Library of Horticulture at the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
in San Francisco.


I came across a botanical drawing (woodcut) that appears in the Ortus
sanitatis herbal identified as Peach, Prunus persica (Stokes) that
instantly caught my eye. Unfortunately, I do not have an example to show
you at this time. The woodcut is a rather simple design but what
interested me were the peaches. The similarity to what I was thinking
were leaves in f34v is quite surprising. I checked with my younger
daughter who is the artist in our family and she immediately identified
and agreed that the peaches (or nectarines, plums) look the same in both
drawings (I sure do wish that I had a color copy of the VMS). Unless
everyone was drawing peaches in the same manner when herbals were being
copied, it would not surprise me at all to learn that the style of the
fruit drawn in f34 was copied from the drawing in the Ortus sanitatis or
vice versa. The author of the Ortus sanitatis is unknown and is
described as an

"Jacob Meydenbach's Hortus Sanitatis, is another highlight of the
Freilich Library. This first edition of perhaps the most important
medical woodcut book printed before 1500 is estimated to sell for
$60/80,000. The Hortus sanitatis is a greatly expanded Latin version of
the Gart der Gesundheit compiled by Johann Wonnecke von Kaub, in 1485.
In addition to being 631 chapters longer, the Hortus has significantly
expanded examinations of the areas of animals, birds, fish, stones and
minerals than in the in the Gart der Gesundheit."

While I don't have have an example at the moment of the Prunus persica
woodcut here is another interesting match from an herbal attributed to
J. Cerny, 1517.
(Notice Similarity to Style of Leaves in f05v)

I believe that the Ortus sanitatis can be found at

National Library of Scotland:

The Natural History Museum (London):

Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry (FBF), Republic of Croatia

Kansas State University:

Univ. Leon:

The Bakken:
A Library and Museum of Electricity in Life
3537 Zenith Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55416-4623, USA

üHortus sanitatis

Hortus Sanitatis
Mainz : Jacob Meydenbach, 1491

Additional References/Excerpts from Ortus Sanitatis ---

"In the Ortus Sanitatis, 1485, under 'Dens Leonis,' there is a monograph
of half a page
(unaccompanied by any illustration) which concludes:
            'The Herb was much employed by Master Wilhelmus, a surgeon,
who on account of its virtues, likened
            it to "eynem lewen zan, genannt zu latin Dens leonis" (a
lion's tooth, called in Latin Dens leonis).' "

"A publication of 1491; 'Hortus Sanitatus' an ancient herbal book, shows
an old wood
cut of the fabled amber tree. Here you can see the tree appears to
bearing some
unusual fruit, as well as resin being exuded from the trunk."

"148. HORTUS SANITATIS., Ortus Sanitatis, de Herbis et Plantis, De
Animalibus et Reptilibus, De Avibus et Volatilibus, De
Piscibus et Natalitatibus, De Lapidibus et in Terre venis nacentibus, de
Urinis et earum Speciebus, Tabula Medicinalis cum
Directorio generali per omnes tractatus., Strasbourg, Reinhard Beck,
1517., In folio, legatura coeva col dorso in pelle di scrofa
impressa e a nervi, piatti di assicelle di legno, cc. 356 non numerate.,
Bel frontespizio interamente inciso, nel testo circa 2.000
bellissime silografie con piante, fiori, mammiferi, pesci, uccelli,
rettili, etc., Bagnasco 1034., Adams 1,559/1019., Libri di insigne
rarità ed importanza, ricercatissimo dai collettori di storia naturale,
anche per la moltitudine di illustrazioni che contiene., Ottimo
esemplare genuino e marginoso, misura mm. 309x221, i difetti si limitano
a piccoli restauri marginali ai titoli e ultima carta, 5 carte sparse
per il volume con strappetti riparati. L. 65.000.000"

"The earliest date that can be positively assigned to any printed book
is 1456 with the completion of the great Mazarine Bible in
Mainz. Books printed before 1501 are known as incunabula. (Incunabulum
means 'cradle' in Latin and the term is used
nowadays to define books from the infancy of printing.) Caxton brought
the art of printing to England in 1476 when he set up
his press in Westminster and is known to have produced just 100 titles.
The best known botanical incunabulum published in
Mainz is the Hortus Sanitatis, 'the garden of health', of 1491. The
Hortus Sanitatis is rich in pictures and we shall see how
rapidly illustration developed."

Sample Pages from Hortus Sanitatis:

Hortus Sanitatis auctioned at Sotheby's for $247,750:

Hortus Sanitatis Index card reference, #33:

Gart der Gesundheit:

Peach Photo:


     The herbal drawing in f34v strikes me as being very much oriented
toward the fairer sex. With a little imagination I might even go so far
as to say that where the shoots meet the roots we can see a suggestion
of the external female genitalia. There is a closed arch formed by two
flowers at the top of the plant similar to what is seen in f05v. Again,
flowers may also represent a reference to crowns (they don't seem to
match peach flowers). The numbers of the may be significant. Of course,
all of what I am saying here may simply be a reflection of a wild
imagination, but then again there may well be indications that there is
something else going on here that warrants further investigation. One
final note is that there may also be an implied comparison between the
drawings of the fruit and faces in the moon seen in many Alchemical
drawings. I wonder if this plant could be a reference to the feminine
aspects in nature whereas f05v refers to the masculine side?

Moon Tree:

The fruit in the plant in f34v also reminds me of Artemis of Ehesus:

Prunus Botany:

Peach Illustration:

Dana Scott