Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747

Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747 Facsimile Edition

Salerno (Italy) — Ca. 1280–1310

Concentrated pharmacological knowledge from the school of Salerno: an exceptionally artistic pharmacopoeia with artistic illustrations based on direct observation

  1. The manuscript from ca. 1300 has 524 chapters combining the knowledge of other works

  2. It is the oldest surviving and probably the original manuscript of the Tractatus de herbis

  3. The text addresses the medicinal uses of substances derived from plants, animals, and minerals

Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747

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  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747

Founded during the 9th century in the southern Italian city of Salerno, the Schola Medica Salernitana was the first and most important medical school in Western Europe. It was here that Greek and Arabic medical texts were first translated into Latin before being copied and disseminated across the continent. One of the most popular and influential of these texts was the Tractatus de herbis, a pharmacopeia consisting of 524 chapters combining the knowledge of various other works concerning the medicinal uses of substances derived from plants, animals, and minerals.
An exceptionally artistic manuscript of the work originating from Italy ca. 1300 is stored under the shelf mark Egerton 747 in the British Library. It is the oldest surviving and probably the original manuscript of the Tractatus de herbis and for the first time since Late Antiquity, the illustrations of the plants appear to be based on direct observation, probably from a botanical garden. These miniatures have no equal among contemporary works of art – not even panel paintings and murals from the period can rival them.

Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747

The Tractatus de herbis is a fine example of the medical handbooks created for physicians and apothecaries during the Middle Ages and were compilations of knowledge from Byzantine, Arabic, and Mozarabic sources. Due to the diverse cultural and ethnic origins of this information, medicinal plants had many different names. To avoid confusing different plants with one another, pharmacological manuscripts paired images of the plants with descriptions of their properties and applications as well as their most common names in various languages. The earliest surviving version of this text and one of the most beautiful originated from Salerno in the early-14th century but was relatively unknown before 1950 and was critical for the realization by researchers that there was an entire family of medieval herbals with a common ancestor.

An Italian Masterpiece

Egerton 747 of the British Library was purchased on July 10th, 1839 for the princely sum of £12,000. Although incomplete, it is one of the most artistically refined works of the period and is distinguished by both its beauty and its naturalism, most likely the result of direct observation by the artists. It originated in Salerno between ca. 1280–1310, home of medieval Western Europe’s first and most important medical school. While some versions of the Tractatus de herbis show only the names of the plant, animal, or mineral depicted, Egerton 747 includes detailed information neatly written in two columns with the miniatures embedded in the relevant text. It is one of the most important exemplars for the study of the family of Tractatus de herbis manuscripts.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Abhandlung über Heilpflanzen - Egerton 747
De Simplici Medicina
Circa instans
Antidotarium Nicolai
Size / Format
294 pages / 36.0 × 24.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
Ca. 1280–1310
Style
Language
Script
Gothic
Illustrations
6 full-page miniatures with titles; Large miniatures throughout the Tractatus de herbis illustrate each plant or substance described; 2 historiated initials; Initials in red and blue; Border decoration
Content
Collection of medical texts: Tractatus de herbis, text on forecasting with a lunar calendar, Antidotarium Nicolai, De dosibus medicinarum, a substitution list in case a certain ingredient is not available, 3 texts on weights and measures, synonyms for pla
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Reverend John Josias Conybeare
Sir Frederick Madden

Available facsimile editions:
Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747 – British Library – Egerton 747 – British Library (London, United Kingdom) Facsimile Edition
British Library – London, 2003
Facsimile Editions

#1 A Medieval Herbal

British Library – London, 2003
Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747 – British Library – Egerton 747 – British Library (London, United Kingdom) Facsimile Edition
Tractatus de Herbis - Egerton 747 – British Library – Egerton 747 – British Library (London, United Kingdom) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: British Library – London, 2003
Commentary: 1 volume by Minta Collins and Sandra Raphael
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Facsimile and commentary are housed in one volume in this edition, with the commentary printed in a separate section. 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.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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