Herbal In France
( Originally Published 1912 )
France (excluding the French Netherlands) does not seem, at first sight, to have contributed a great deal towards the development of the Herbal in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but it must be remembered that jean and Gaspard Bauhin, and the publisher, Christophe Plantin, were French by extraction, though Switzerland and Holland were their countries by adoption. Most of the important herbals published in other languages were translated into French quite early in their history, some-times in a modified form, so that France in the sixteenth century was probably by no means backward in botanical knowledge. One such adaptation was ` L'Histoire des Plantes,' by Geofroy Linocier, which was founded, in part, on the works of Fuchs and Mattioli.
A well-known name among the earlier French writers is that of Jean Ruel, or Joannes Ruellius, as he is commonly called (1474-1537). He was a physician, and a professor in the University of Paris, and chiefly devoted himself to the emending and explaining of Dioscorides. He also wrote a general botanical treatise, ` De Natura Stirpium,' which first appeared in Paris in 1536. This work, which is without illustrations, is intended mainly to elucidate the ancient writers.
The most famous of the French herbalists was Jacques d'Aléchamps (Text-fig. 50), whose magnum opus, which appeared in 1586, formed a compendium of much of the material which had been contributed by the different nations. He was born at Caen in 1513, and after studying medicine at Montpelier, entered upon the practice of it at Lyons, where he remained until his death in 1588.
D'Aléchamps' great work is generally called the Historia plantarum Lugdunensis.' Curiously enough, the author's name is not mentioned on the title-page. From the preface one would gather that Johannes Molindus (or Desmoulins) was the chief author. However, judging by the way in which the book was quoted by contemporary writers, there appears to be little doubt that d'Aléchamps was really responsible for it, though assisted at different times by Jean Bauhin and Desmoulins.
The Historia plantarum had numerous faults, but it was, at the time, the most complete universal flora that existed. It contained about 2700 figures (two of which are reproduced in Text-figs. 51 and loi), but, both in drawing and wood-cutting, they show marked inferiority to much of the earlier work.