Trattato di Christoforo Acosta Africano medico, & chirurgo. Della historia, natura, et virtu delle droghe medicinali, & altri semplici rarissimi, che vengono portati dalle Indie Orientali in Europa, con le figure delle piante ritratte, & disegnate dal
A work of great value: each entry illustrates a series of exotic medicinal plants that the author was able to learn about directly in situ, unlike the botanists that had preceded him and his contemporaries. His stay in the "spice lands" allowed Acosta to offer firsthand descriptions and to roundly criticize the descriptions and illustrations of others, beginning with Theophrastus all the way to Mattioli, and including, along the way, Pliny, Dioscorides, the great Arab botanists (Masawayh, Ibn Sina etc.) and numerous others. The list of spices covered is not long, but the types of plants chosen are rather interesting. The first spice described is cinnamon, followed by black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, mace spice, pavate, galingale, tamarind, prickly pear, chincona wood, datura, Indian hazelnut, palm, antivenin coconuts (fruits brought from the sea and reserved for kings), Indian apple and the lacquer produced from it (alchermes), canafistula, Java pepper, betel, Arabian tea, bezar stone, sandal, andropogon nardus, schinanto, aloe, amber, stone parsley, cashew, sensitive plant (mimosa pudica), soft grass - which every evening seems to die and then is reborn the morning after - camphor, carambolas, Indian saphron (cucurma or turmeric), "gengiovo" (ginger), iaculo iambi, cherry plum, box elder, nimbo, rhubarb, ambari, spodio, turpeth, Molucca nuts, mango, carameis, caius, Molucca grass and wood, snakewoods, moringa, pineapple, Sargasso seaweed, carcapuli, baungue, asafetida, sweet flag, cardamom, costus, manna - about which he relates a sophism, indigo, and opium. Besides giving us the medicinal properties for each species, the author provides precious information on local names, traditional uses by indigenous peoples, literary citations on food use (as in the case of galingale), stories and legendary anecdotes (he tells that the prickly pear might have been the cause of Adam’s sin because the leaf (sic!) is big enough to cover an entire man). The last 23 pages of the text, curiously enough, are dedicated to a mini-treatise on the elephant.