A magnificently illuminated gift from Gian Galeazzo Visconti to King Wenceslas: the great medical encyclopedia of Ibn Butlan

Historia Plantarum

Milan (Italy) — End of the 14th century

Historia Plantarum

Historia Plantarum

Milan (Italy) — End of the 14th century

  1. A medical encyclopedia of remedies with nearly 600 depictions of plants and animals

  2. It is based on the medical treatise *Taqwim es-sihha* by the Arab Christian doctor Ibn Butlan (d. 1075)

  3. A gift to King Wenceslaus from Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351–1402), at whose court the encyclopedia originated

Historia Plantarum

Alternative Titles:
  • Medizinische Enzyklopädie Kaiser Wenzels
  • Tacuinum sanitatis
Historia Plantarum – Ms. 459 – Biblioteca Casanatense (Rome, Italy)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Historia Plantarum codex arose at the end of the 14th century at the court of Gian Galeazzo in Milan. It is a medical encyclopedia that explains floral, faunal, and mineral compounds. The work is adorned with numerous botanical depictions, such as miniatures of animals and common articles of daily use.

Historia Plantarum

In the 11th century, the doctor Ibn Butlan composed the medical work Taqwim es-sihha. The Latin book series Tacuinum Sanitatis was based on the foundation of this work. Included among them are exquisite illuminated codices, which are found today in Vienna, Rome, London, and Paris. Rome’s Historia Plantarum, a work from this series, represents an exhaustive encyclopedia of the natural sciences with descriptions of plants, minerals, and animals. Special interest was shown to the specific medicinal and therapeutic effects of floral and faunal substances. The codex contains more than 500 beautiful and illustrative depictions of plans and over 80 depictions of animals.

Medicine in the Middle Ages

The Historia Plantarum is an interesting and historically significant source about medicine and also about the everyday life of the Middle Ages. According to medieval doctors, various elements were needed for a healthy lifestyle: proper diet, exercise and enough sleep, and a balanced emotional state. A life in harmony with nature was recommended. This guaranteed people health and well-being. The illuminated manuscript is illustrated with over five hundred illustrations of plants in alphabetical order. The depictions convey an astoundingly detailed and imposing overview of the thorough knowledge about plant life, which one possessed in late medieval Italy. In addition to these botanical pictures come more than eighty illustrations of animals, from which one obtained healing remedies, as well as over 30 depictions of mineral derivatives.

Prominent Previous Owners

The manuscript was made at the end of the 14th century at the court of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The ruler was the most powerful and glorious scion of the great Visconti family and created during his reign one of the most impressive collections of unbelievably valuable book treasures. Gian Galeazzo presented the splendid Historia Plantarum to Wenzel IV, King of Bohemia and Germany, with whom he forged a good political relationship. Today the medical encyclopedia is found in the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Medizinische Enzyklopädie Kaiser Wenzels
Tacuinum sanitatis
Size / Format
590 pages / 46.0 x 32.0 cm
Date
End of the 14th century
Style
Gothic
Language
Illustrations
More than 500 illustrations of plants and 80 illustration of animals
Previous Owners
Historia Plantarum

Historia Plantarum

Elephant

Despite its name, this manuscript also depicts dozens of animals including creatures of fantasy like dragons and real animals like elephants that were just as strange and exotic to medieval Europeans. The elephant is depicted as being nearly as tall as a tree with the bushes grazing its stomach. It is depicted with a stern expression and its ears have a splendid fall of folds.

The margins of the page are filled with rich tendrils of red and blue that also incorporate some Gothic architectural elements. Although the identity of the three figures is unclear, there are some clues. In the historiated initial, the man’s garments and gestures suggest that he is a scholar, while the figures in the medallions resemble members of the nobility.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Historia Plantarum“

Historia Plantarum
Historia Plantarum – Ms. 459 – Biblioteca Casanatense (Rome, Italy)
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Historia Plantarum

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Franco Cosimo Panini Editore – Modena, 2002
Limited Edition
750 copies
Binding
Green valvet with clasps and fittings
Commentary
1 volume (285 pages) by Angela Adriana Cavarra, Vera Segre Rutz, Annamaria Torroncelli and sabella Ceccopieri
Language: Italian
More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Regular price without login (like new)6,450 €
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