In Greek, Byzantium, Tenth century, Illustrations added in Byzantine territory, fourteenth century
This manuscript, a harmonization of excerpts from two of the most important writers on materia medica of antiquity, was assembled in Byzantium in the tenth century. Most of the substances named in the work are plants. Illustrations were added in the mid- fourteenth century to enhance the practical usefulness of the work. Although many of the illustrations--like the molluscs shown on this page--are strikingly naturalistic, most are copied from much earlier models.
Vat. gr. 284 fols. 232 verso-233 recto nature01 NAN.17
The collections of the Renaissance papacy were well supplied with authoritative works on botany and materia medica. This manuscript of Pliny's encyclopedia of natural history, compiled in the first century A.D., was copied in the late eighth or early ninth century in the Carolingian empire, perhaps at the monastery of Corbie. Pliny devoted several sections of his work to plants, animals, and minerals that could be used for medical purposes. Shown here are the contents of Book VIII, which includes medicines from animals, dragons, and serpents of great size--a reminder that fantastic as well as realistic natural history and materia medica had their origins in classical antiquity.
Vat. lat. 3861 fols. 53 verso-54 recto nature02 NAN.18
For practical reasons, illustrations--whether stylized or naturalistic--were an important part of some medieval herbals or works on medicinal substances. The interaction of textual and iconographic traditions has a complicated history. This picture book, with no narrative text, is probably associated with a Salernitan herbal compiled at the medical school at Salerno in the twelfth century and known as the "Circa instans." Plants, animals, and minerals are arranged in alphabetical order with plant lists and captions in Latin. Here, a highly naturalistic rose appears side by side with some much less realistically rendered plants.
Chig. F. VII 158 fols. 75 verso-76 recto nature03 NAN.19
Simone of Genoa was a physician to Pope Nicholas IV. In addition to translating and compiling works on materia medica, he was the author of a glossary of medical substances called a "Synonima." Completed about 1290, it provided transliterated Greek and Arabic as well as Latin nomenclature. The copious illustrations of materia medica in this fifteenth-century manuscript of Simone's works include both some stylized depictions of plants--here, an orange tree--and lively naturalistic drawings of animals, perhaps added by another hand.
Chig. F. VIII 188 fols. 19 verso-20 recto nature04 NAN.20