Herbal In Germany.
( Originally Published 1912 )
IN his History of Botany, Kurt Sprengel first used the honoured title, " The German Fathers of Botany," to de-scribe a group of herbalists—Brunfels, Bock, Fuchs and Cordus—whose work belongs principally to the first half of the sixteenth century.
The earliest of these was Otto Brunfels [Otho Brunfelsius], who is said to have been born in 1464. His surname is derived from the fact that his father, who was a cooper, came from Schloss Brunfels, near Mainz. When Otto grew up, he became a Carthusian monk. We do not know how long his monastic career lasted, but eventually his health appears to have broken down, and, at the same time, his faith in the Roman Catholic Church was undermined by the acquaintance which he began to make with protestant doctrines. He fled from the monastery, and took up his abode in Strasburg, where he was for nine years headmaster of the grammar school. He wrote various theological works, but ultimately turned his attention to medicine, and, before his death in 1534, he had become town physician at Bern. As evidence of his medical studies we have his fine herbal, which is still full of interest, whereas his other works, which he probably regarded as much more serious contributions, have fallen into oblivion.
A new era in the history of the herbal may be said to date from the year 1530, when the first part of Brunfels' work, the `Herbarum viva eicones, was published by Schott of Strasburg. In this book, with its beautiful and naturalistic illustrations, there is, as the title indicates, a real return to nature; the plants are represented as they are, and not in the conventionalised aspect which had become traditional in the earlier herbals, through successive copying by one artist from another, without reference to the plants themselves. The blocks for the ` Herbarum vivae eicones' were executed by Hans Weiditz, who was probably also the draughtsman.
The illustrations of Brunfels' herbal are incomparably better than the text, which is very poor, and largely borrowed from previous writers. Brunfels' knowledge of botany was chiefly derived from the study of certain Italian authors, Manardus and others, who spent their time in trying to identify the plants they saw growing around them with those described by Dioscorides. This was by no means unreasonable in their case, since it was the plants of the Mediterranean region that Dioscorides had enumerated. When, however, Brunfels attempted to employ the same methods in his examination of the flora of the Strasburg district, and the left bank of the Rhine, many difficulties and discrepancies arose. He had no understanding of the geographical distribution of plants, and did not realise that different regions have dissimilar floras. It is curious that this should have been so, when we remember that Theophrastus, more than eighteen hundred years earlier, had clearly pointed out that the provinces of Asia have each their own characteristic plants, and that some, which occur in one region, are absent from another.
Hieronymus Bock, who in his Latin writings called himself Tragus (Text-fig. 26), was a contemporary of Brunfels, though his botanical work was somewhat later in date. He was born in 1498, and destined by his parents for the cloister. But he proved to have no vocation for the monastic life, and, having passed through a university course, he obtained, by favour of the Count Palatine Ludwig, the post of school teacher at Zweibrücken, and overseer of the Count's garden. After his patron's death he removed to Hornbach, where he preached the gospel, and also had an extensive medical practice, devoting his spare time to botany. But he got into some trouble, apparently owing to his protestantism, and was obliged to leave Hornbach. He was in serious straits until Count Philip of Nassau, whom he had previously cured of a severe illness, gave him shelter and support in his own castle. He was eventually able to return to Hornbach, where he filled the office of preacher until his death in 1554.
Bock's great work is the ` New Kreutterbuch,' a herbal which first appeared in 1539, printed at Strasburg by Wendel Rihel. In subsequent editions the title was abbreviated to ` Kreuter Bach.' The first edition was without illustrations, but a second, containing many wood-cuts, followed in 1546. The majority of the figures are said to have been copied on a reduced scale from those in Fuchs' magnificent herbal, which appeared in 1542, between the first and second editions of Bock's work. Fuchs' figures must have been used with great discretion, for the plagiarism is often not obvious (see Text-figs. 27, 90, 91). A considerable number of the figures are new, being drawn and engraved by David Kandel, whose initials appear on the portrait of Bock, reproduced in Text-fig. 26. The wood-cuts of trees in the third part of the book are particularly noticeable (see Text-figs. 28 and 92) and are often made more interesting by the introduction of figures of men and animals.
Bock's chief claim to remembrance, however, does not lie in his figures, but in his descriptions, which were a great advance on those previously published. He was careful also to note the mode of occurrence and localities of the plants mentioned, and in this feature his work showed some approach to a flora in the modern sense of the word. Bock seems to have been a keen collector, although hampered by ill-health, and a great point in his favour is that he described only those plants which had come under his own personal observation. The Royal Fern (Osmunda) was traditionally supposed to bear seed upon St John's Eve, though ferns were generally believed at that time to have no organs of fructification. To test this statement, Bock four times spent the night in the forest. He found " small black seed like poppy seed," in spite of the fact that he " used no charm, incantation or magic character," but went upon his search without superstition.
Bock's freedom from the credulity which permeated the work of so many of the early botanists is one of his most remarkable characteristics. His chapters on Verbena and Artemisia reflect clearly the independence of his thought.
He points out that the former plant is collected rather for purposes of magic than for medicine, and he can hardly contain his scorn at the " monkey tricks and ceremonies" connected with the use of the latter.
Leonhard Fuchs [or Fuchsius], the third of the Fathers of German Botany (see Frontispiece), belonged to the same generation as Hieronymus Bock, though he was a little younger and produced his chief work three years later. He was born in 1501 at Membdingen in Bavaria, and at an early age he became a student of the University of Erfurt, where he is said to have taken a bachelor's degree in his thirteenth year 1 After a period of school teaching, he resumed his studies, this time at the University of Ingolstadt, where he devoted himself chiefly to classics, and became a Master of Arts. After this he turned his attention to medicine, and took a doctor's degree. At Ingolstadt he came under the influence of Luther's writings, which won him over to the reformed faith.
Fuchs began to practise as a physician at Munich, but in i 526 he returned to Ingolstadt as Professor of Medicine. He seems to have been of a restless temperament, which was probably accentuated by the persecution to which his protestant opinions exposed him. His career for more than forty years consisted of periods of active practice, alternating with periods of university teaching. In 1535 he was appointed to a professorship at Tubingen, and, while he held this post, he declined a call to the University of Pisa, and also an invitation to become physician to the King of Denmark. It is clear that, both as a physician and a teacher, he was in great demand. He acquired a wide-spread reputation by his successful treatment of a terrible epidemic disease, which swept over Germany in 1529. A little book of medical instructions and prayers against the plague, which was published in London in the latter half of the sixteenth century, shows that his fame had extended to England. It is entitled, ' A worthy practise of the moste learned Phisition Maister Leonerd Fuchsius, Doctor in Phisicke, most necessary in this needfull tyme of our visitation, for the comforte of all good and faythfull people, both olde and yonge, both for the sicke and for them that woulde avoyde the daunger of contagion.'
In spite of his professional activity, Fuchs found time to produce a botanical masterpiece, which appeared in 1542 from the press of Isingrin of Basle, under the title De historia stirpium.' This was a Latin herbal dealing with about four hundred native German, and one hundred foreign plants, and was followed in the succeeding year by a German edition, called the ` New Kreüterbûch.' Of all the botanists of the Renaissance, Fuchs is perhaps the one who deserves most to be held in honour. He is notably superior to his two predecessors in matters calling for scholarship, such as the critical study of the plant nomenclature of classical authors. His herbal rivals, or even surpasses, that of Brunfels in its illustrations, and that of Bock in its German text. The letter-press of the Latin edition is, on the whole, inferior to the German, the brief descriptions being often taken word for word from previous writers.
The Latin edition opens, however, with a long and most interesting preface, in singularly pure and fine Latin. Fuchs is keenly indignant at the ignorance of herbs displayed even by medical men. His outburst on this subject may be literally translated as follows :—" But, by Immortal God, is it to be wondered at that kings and princes do not at all regard the pursuit of the investigation of plants, when even the physicians of our time so shrink from it that it is scarcely possible to find one among a hundred who has an accurate knowledge of even so many as a few plants ? "
That Fuchs' work was indeed a labour of love is a conviction that must force itself upon everyone who studies his herbal, and it is further borne out by his own words in the preface—words which bear the stamp of a lively enthusiasm : " But there is no reason why I should dilate at greater length upon the pleasantness and delight of acquiring knowledge of plants, since there is no one who does not know that there is nothing in this life pleasanter and more delightful than to wander over woods, mountains, plains, garlanded and adorned with flowerlets and plants of various sorts, and most elegant to boot, and to gaze intently upon them. But it increases that pleasure and delight not a little, if there be added an acquaintance with the virtues and powers of these same plants."
The wood-cuts which illustrate Fuchs' herbal are of extraordinary beauty (Text-figs. 30, 31, 32, 58, 70, 86, 87, 88). Some of them gain a special interest as being the first European figures of certain American plants, e.g. Indian Corn (Zea mais L.) and the Great Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima Duch.) (Text-fig. 32). These wood-cuts became familiar in England in the second half of the sixteenth century, being used on a reduced scale (borrowed from the octavo edition) in both William Turner's herbal and Lyte's Dodoens, two books which we shall consider a little later. In Fuchs' great work we are fortunate in possessing, in addition to the botanical drawings, a full-length portrait of the author himself, holding a spray of Veronica, on the verso of the title-page (see Frontispiece), and, at the end of the work, named portraits, which are generally supposed to represent the artist who drew the plants from nature, the draughtsman whose business it was to copy the outline on to the wood, and the engraver who actually cut the block (Text-fig. 89). It has also been suggested that the first of these is perhaps engaged in colouring a printed sheet. These portraits are powerfully drawn, and remarkably convincing. It is pleasant to think that we know not merely the names, but the very features of the men who collaborated to give us what is perhaps the most beautiful herbal ever produced.
The influence of Fuchs' illustrations is more strongly felt in later work than that of his text. The majority of the wood engravings in Bock's ` Kreuter Bûch' (1546), Dodoens' `Crûÿdeboeck' (1554), Turner's ' New Herball' (1551-1568), Lyte's ` Niewe Herball' (1578) and Jean Bauhin's ` Historia plantarum universalis' (1651), are copied from Fuchs, or even printed from his actual wood-blocks, while a number of his figures reappear in the herbals of Egenolph, d'Aléchamps, Tabernmontanus, etc., and the commentaries of Ruellius and Amatus Lusitanus on Dioscorides.
Fuchs arranged his work alphabetically, making no attempt at a natural grouping of the plants, and his herbal is therefore without importance in the history of plant classification. His influence on methods of plant description was, however, considerable, as is shown by the fact that Dodoens, in his ` Crûydeboeck,' took Fuchs' herbal as a model for the order of description of each plant. Fuchs' text, as well as his figures, may thus be said to have had an effect, even if an indirect one, on British botany, since the herbals of Lyte and of Gerard are based on the work of Dodoens, in which, as we have just shown, the influence of Fuchs is clearly felt.
The publisher Christian Egenolph of Frankfort, though not himself a botanical writer, must be mentioned at this stage, because he brought out, in 1533, a set of plant illustrations which became particularly well known (e.g. Text-figs. 33 and 85). They do not reflect any great credit on Egenolph, since they were mostly pirated from Brunfels. They were not even used to illustrate a new herbal, but merely a new edition of the old German Herbarius, enlarged and improved by Dr Eucharias Rhodion, and issued under the name of ' Kreutterbûch von allem Erdtgewâchs.'
Egenolph was evidently a keen man of business, for he made his figures do duty over and over again. He used them not only as illustrations to the herbal, but as a separate publication, without any letter-press, and also in conjunction with an entirely unrelated text, such, for ex-ample, as a Latin version of Dioscorides. Many later editions of the Kreutterbûch appeared, and to these a number of figures were added, chiefly copies, on a reduced scale, from those of Bock, who had himself made consider-able use of the drawings in the octavo edition of Fuchs' herbal. The editions produced under the auspices of Adam Lonicer, the publisher's son-in-law, are particularly well known. No other botanical works of the period had a success comparable to that of this long series of books, of which Rhodion's `Kreutterbûch' was the prototype. This success was, however, achieved in the teeth of much ad-verse contemporary criticism. Fuchs, in the preface of his 'Historia stirpium' (1542), referred with unsparing touch to Egenolph's botanical mistakes. His trenchant indictment may be rendered into English as follows—" Among all the herbals which exist to-day, there are none which have more of the crassest errors than those which Egenolph, the printer, has already published again and again." This statement Fuchs supports by means of actual examples.
It must nevertheless be admitted that, even if their quality was poor, the herbals published by Egenolph and his successors did good service in disseminating some knowledge of the plant world among a very wide public. There is, in the British Museum, a beautiful . copy of the 1536 edition, with a binding stamped in gold and bearing the arms of Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, daughter of Henry VII. The duchess may perhaps have inherited a taste for herbals from her father, for the British Museum also possesses a copy of Vérard's translation of the Ortus Sanitatis,' which is known to have been purchased by him.
Among the German Fathers of Botany, Sprengel includes a comparatively little known name, that of Valerius Cordus (1515-1544), a man whose actual achievement was small, but who, if he had not died so young, would probably have become one of the most famous of the earlier herbalists. His father, Euricius Cordus, was a physician, botanist, and man of letters, so Valerius was brought up in a fortunate environment. At sixteen he graduated at the University of Marburg, and, after studying in various towns, he passed from the position of pupil to that of teacher, and expounded Dioscorides at the University of Wittenberg. He travelled widely in search of plants, and visited many of the savants of the period. He is known to have made a stay at Tübingen, and it is highly probable that he became personally acquainted with Leonhard Fuchs.
Cordus had always longed. to see, under their native skies, the plants about which the ancients had written, and, in fulfilment of this dream, he undertook a long excursion into Italy. He visited many of the towns, amongst others Padua, Bologna, Florence and Siena, travelling partly on foot and partly on horseback, and generally accompanied by his friend Hieronymus Schreiber. The journey was a very trying one to men accustomed to a more northerly climate. Wild and difficult country had to be traversed in the height of summer, and the exposure and fatigue led to a tragic conclusion. Cordus was injured by a kick from a horse, which brought on a fever, and his companions had great difficulty in getting him as far as Rome. He rallied, however, and his friends were deceived into the belief that he was on the road to recovery. They even thought it safe to leave him, while they made an excursion to Naples, but he did not survive until their return. His fate, like that of Keats, was to see Rome and die.
None of the botanical works of Valerius Cordus were published during his life-time, but his commentaries on Dioscorides and his ` Historia stirpium ' were edited by Gesner after his death. The great merit of the ' Historia' lies in the vividness of the descriptions. The author seems to have examined the plants for their own sake—not merely in the interest of the arts of healing.
Cordus did noteworthy service to medicine, however, for when he passed through Nuremberg on his travels he was able to lay before the physicians of that town a collection of medical recipes, chiefly selected from earlier writings. This work, which had for some time been in use in Saxony in manuscript form, was considered so valuable that, after it had been examined and tested under the auspices of the town council, it was published officially as the Nuremberg Dispensatorium,' probably in 1546. This is said to be the first work of the nature of a pharmacopoeia ever published under government authority.
A passing reference may be made at this point to Jacob Theodor of Bergzabern (1520—1590), a herbalist whose work was perhaps of no very great importance, but who is closely connected with the German Fathers of Botany, having been the pupil both of Otto Brunfels and of Hieronymus Bock. In his books he called himself Tabernæmontanus.
Like the majority of the herbalists, Theodor was a medical man, and his study of botany was a hobby which extended over many years. He projected a herbal, but was unable for a long time to carry the idea into effect, being deterred by the cost of the illustrations. This difficulty was eventually overcome, chiefly through the generosity of Count Palatine Frederick III, and of the Frankfort publisher, Nicolaus Bassaeus. The herbal first appeared in 1588, under the title `Neuw Kreuterbuch,' and in 1590 the illustrations were published without any text as the `Eicones plantarum.' The herbal is a large and very finely illustrated work. The figures, however, are for the most part not original, but are reproduced from Bock, Fuchs, Dodoens, Mattioli, de l'Écluse and de l'Obel. This collection of wood-blocks became familiar in England a few years later, when they were acquired by the printer John Norton, and used to illustrate Gerard's ` Herball' which appeared in 1597.
There is still another German herbalist of the sixteenth century whose work must not be overlooked. This is Joachim Camerarius' the younger (Plate VI). His father was a celebrated philologist, and a friend of Melanchthon. The son, who was born in 1534, was attracted to botany in his early youth. He studied at Wittenberg and other universities, and travelled in Hungary and Italy. He spent some time in the latter country, and took a doctor's degree in medicine at Bologna. At Pisa, he became acquainted with Andrea Cesalpino. Finally he returned to Germany, and settled down at Nuremberg. Here he cultivated a garden which was kept supplied with rare plants by his friends, and the Nuremberg merchants.
Camerarius brought out an edition of Mattioli (` De plantis Epitome'), but his chief work was the ` Hortus medicus et philosophicus,' which appeared in 1588. The illustrations to this book consist partly of drawings by Gesner, which the author had bought a few years previously, and partly of original figures. It is impossible to discriminate with any exactness between the work of the two men. These wood-cuts, of which Text-figs. 34, 35, 71 and 100 are examples, will be discussed more fully in Chapter. VII. From the botanical point of view, they represent a considerable advance, since the details of floral structure are often shown on an enlarged scale. Camerarius was a good observer, and his travels furnished him with much information regarding the localities for the plants which he described.