Vienna Dioscorides

Vienna Dioscorides Facsimile Edition

Istanbul (Turkey) — Ca. 512

A milestone of medicine written 1500 years ago in Byzantium: the largest and most influential work on herbal medicine in history

  1. An illuminated Byzantine manuscript with almost 500 illustrations of plants and animals, commissioned ca. 512, probably by Princess Juliana Anikia (462–527/8)

  2. The primary work by the physician and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40–90) is appended by numerous other classical works

  3. It bears traces of continuous use by Greek, Latin, Turkish, Oriental, and Jewish physicians

Vienna Dioscorides

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Vienna Dioscorides

One of the most precious late classical illuminated manuscripts is an herbarium produced in Constantinople at the beginning of the 6th century, which is called the Vienna Dioscorides after its current place of conservation. This codex describes numerous efficacious herbs as well as poisonous animals and birds; it is appended by transcriptions of four classical scientific works. It is illustrated by 392 full-page miniatures and 87 smaller miniatures embedded in the text, the majority of which are dedicated to plants, with 66 devoted to poisonous animals and 47 of which illustrate various bird species. These miniatures represent excellent copies of late Hellenistic-Roman models and are priceless not least because the antique originals have been lost. With all of this in mind, it is no wonder that the manuscript was declared a UNESCO Memory of the World Document in 1998.

Vienna Dioscorides

Like the fascinating images of human beings and animals contained in the book, the depictions of plants bear testimony to the great art of illumination in the Byzantine Empire. In line with the textual tradition – the herbarium of the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (1st century) including insertions from writings of other authors and a number of significant appendices – the Vienna Dioscorides has provided a virtually inexhaustible source for the history of classical sciences and early Byzantine culture. The codex had an enormous influence for several centuries and became the ancestor of numerous herbal manuscripts of the Middle Ages, down to the beginning of the modern age. It bears traces of continuous use by Greek, Latin, Turkish, Oriental, and Jewish physicians, thus proving an ongoing esteem for classical pharmacology. With the increasing interest in the effects of medicinal herbs in modern times, the Vienna Dioscorides is gaining ever-wider recognition, and was awarded the status of UNESCO Memory of the World Document in 1998.

Testimony to Byzantine Illumination

The dedication picture introducing the manuscript allows it to be dated to ca. 512 and located in a workshop in Constantinople. It shows the Byzantine princess Juliana Anikia, endower of a church in the quarter of Honoratae; she is being presented the precious codex as a gift from the citizens of Constantinople. This collective manuscript not only referred to the most diverse sources but also provided a résumé of all relevant findings of Greek research in the field of pharmacy and applied botany. The Vienna Dioscorides therefore remains an all-encompassing reference work for specialists in medicine and pharmacology.

Invaluable Source for the Sciences, Illumination, and Philology

The manuscript largely consists of a copy of the herbal by the physician and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides, which is arranged in alphabetical order. It describes 383 medicinal herbs in Greek majuscule, a script often referred to by researchers as Bible majuscule. We also find transcriptions in a later minuscule as the old majuscule script became increasingly difficult to read. In a highly sophisticated didactic approach, the descriptive text is accompanied with pictorial representations of the plants. Most of these illustrations cover a whole page and are executed in opaque color painting. Together with 66 images of poisonous animals and 47 illustrations of birds, they represent excellent copies of late Hellenistic-Roman models and are priceless not least because the antique originals have been lost. The herbarium covers the main part of the book and is followed by several appendices, among them an anonymous poem on the effects of plants dedicated to the Gods (carmen de viribus herbarum) and four transcriptions of classical scientific works. These are the transcription of Eutecnios on the Theriaca by Nicandros of Colophon containing illustrations of plants and wild animals (snakes, scorpions, spiders), the transcription of the same author on the Alexipharmaca by Nicandros, an anonymous transcription on the Halieutica by Oppianos, and an anonymous transcription on the Ornithiaca by Dionysos of Philadelphia including numerous depictions of birds, which have proved important in the history of zoological illustration. The book concludes with some small fragments of a Menaion, a liturgical service manuscript including the lives of saints, which goes beyond the scope of its contents.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Wiener Dioskurides
Pedacio Dioscorides Anazarbeo, De Materia Medica
Dioscurides Constantinopolitanus
Codex Vindobonensis
Juliana Anicia Codex
Size / Format
984 pages / 38.0 × 31.0 cm
Origin
Turkey
Date
Ca. 512
Style
Language
Illustrations
392 full-page pictures and 87 pictures within the text
Patron
Anicia Iuliana
Previous Owners
Moses Hamon
Maximilian II

Available facsimile editions:
Vienna Dioscorides – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Cod. Vindob. Med. gr. 1 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Facsimile Edition
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1965–1970

Detail Picture

Vienna Dioscorides

Agrimonia

Labelled here in Greek as ἀργεμώνη, genus Agrimonia consists of about a dozen perennial herbaceous flowering plants characterized by its tiny but brightly colored flowers arranged on unbranched spikes. According to Dioscorides, the plant can be used to ease sore gums and throats, stop bleeding, and treat ailments of the stomach, liver, and gallbladder. It can also be used to create foot baths for tired feet, treat wounds, and the Anglo-Saxons used it to enhance male sexual performance.

Der Wiener Dioskurides
Single Page

Vienna Dioscorides

Dedication Miniature

The Vienna Dioscorides is a fundamental work of herbal medicine and a fine testimony of the Byzantine art of illumination in Late Antiquity. We are able to date the completion of this manuscript to the year 512 and trace it to a workshop in Constantinople thanks to the dedication miniature. It shows the patron of the manuscript, Princess Julia Anikia, being presented with the codex by the citizens of Constantinople.

Princess Julia is receiving this gift as an act of gratitude for her support of the Theotokos Church in the Honoratae quarter. Eight smaller scenes surrounding her portrait depict her support of the arts and architecture of the imperial capital. The eight pointed star that makes up the frame is depicted as though it is woven like a rope.

Der Wiener Dioskurides
Facsimile Editions

#1 Der Wiener Dioskurides

Publisher: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1965–1970
Binding: White Leather on wooden board. All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume by Hans Gerstinger
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) 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.
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#2 De Materia Medica by Pedacio Dioscorides

Edilan – Madrid, 1978
Vienna Dioscorides – Edilan – Cod. Vindob. Med. gr. 1 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Facsimile Edition
Vienna Dioscorides – Edilan – Cod. Vindob. Med. gr. 1 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Edilan – Madrid, 1978
Binding: Brown Leather on wooden board. All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) 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: €€€€ (7,000€ - 10,000€)
Edition available
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