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Latin Herbarius

( Originally Published 1912 )

The work to which we may refer for convenience as the Latin Herbarius is also known under many other titles—Herbarius in Latino,' Aggregator de Simplicibus," Herbarius Moguntinus,' `Herbarius Patavinus,' etc. It was originally printed at Mainz by Peter Schoffer in 1484, in the form of a small quarto. It is interesting to recall that the earliest specimen of printing from movable type known to exist was produced in the same town thirty years before.

Other early editions and translations of the Herbarius appeared in Bavaria, the Low Countries, Italy, and probably also in France. The work, like most of the early herbals, was anonymous, and was a compilation from mediaeval writers, and from certain classical and Arabian authors. It seems to have no connection with the Herbarium of Apuleius, which is nowhere cited. The majority of the authorities quoted wrote before 1300 A.D and no author is mentioned who might not have been known to a writer about the middle of the fourteenth century, that is to say, at least a hundred years before the Herbarius was published. It is quite possible that the work was not written at the time it was printed, but may have had a previous career in manuscript.

The wood-blocks of the first German edition are bold and decorative, but as a rule show little attempt at realism (Text-figs. 3, 4, 5 and 73). A different and better set of figures were used in Italy to illustrate the text (Text-figs. 6, 57, 65, 74, 75, 76). The authorship of this version of the Herbarius is sometimes erroneously attributed to Arnold de Nova Villa, a physician of the thirteenth century, a mistake which arose through the conspicuous citation of his name in the preface to the Venetian editions.

The descriptions and figures of the herbs are arranged alphabetically. All thé plants discussed were natives of Germany or in cultivation there, and the object of the work seems to have been to help the reader to the use of cheap and easily obtained remedies, in cases of illness or accident.

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