Translated by Theodore of Gaza, Dedicated to Nicholas V, Italy, Mid-fifteenth century
For sixteenth-century botanical collectors and authors, the works of Aristotle's pupil Theophrastus were both an important source of information and a stimulus to further contributions to knowledge. These treatises, unknown in western Europe before the fifteenth century, were first translated into Latin by Theodore of Gaza at the request of Pope Nicholas V. The translation was finished in 1453 or 1454 and dedicated to the pope. Despite its handsome title page, the text of this codex, unlike some manuscripts of herbals (such as those shown in the Botany room Numbers 1, 3, and 4 ), contains no illustrations to increase understanding of its scientific content.
Francesco Stelluti (1577-1652) was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei and a close friend of Prince Cesi, its founder. This engraving, which records Stelluti's microscopic observations of insects, combines the earliest illustration of a subject seen through the microscope with a Latin poem complimenting Pope Urban VIII. The illustration includes bees, which were the heraldic emblem of the Barberini family, to which the pope belonged. The engraving was presented to the pope.
Botany and natural history were subjects of considerable interest in early seventeenth-century Rome. Fabio Colonna, a leading botanist and botanical illustrator, was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, founded in Rome by Prince Federico Cesi whose own botanical interest Colonna encouraged. Colonna's interest in describing and illustrating hitherto unknown plants extended to local as well as exotic specimens. He described the plant at left (p. 60) as growing copiously all around Rome. His work is dedicated to Cardinal Odoardo Farnese.
Michele Mercati (1541-93) was the director of the Vatican botanic gardens and a keen collector of minerals. He endeavored to establish a systematically organized papal museum of minerals; his "Metallotheca" was intended to combine a comprehensive treatise on minerals with a catalogue of the collection. At the time of his death the "Metallotheca" was still unpublished; soon afterward, the collection itself was dispersed. Mercati's manuscript survived, however, and already contained completed engravings for the illustrations by Anthony Eisenhout; here, the sulphur mines of Pozzuoli near Naples. The "Metallotheca" was finally edited by the papal physician Giovanni Maria Lancisi and published in 1717, but by then the traditional science of Mercati was of merely historical interest.
Vat. lat. 7211 fols. 62 verso - 63 recto nature08 NAN.26