Herbarium Apulei 1481.

Farmaceutica - Erbari

Herbarium Apulei 1481. This text, printed in 1481 by De Ligamine, is one of the many copies of manuscript herbals that populated the libraries of the early Middle Ages, as the direct elaboration of preceding works going back most certainly to Dioscorides or even to more ancient Greek physicians. It is known, for instance, that already Kratevas, physician to Mithradates VI, had composed an illustrated herbal for his king. This herbal was later lost, but a copy of it seems, at the court of Byzantium at the beginning of the 6th century of the Christian era, to have been used in the preparation of an herbal of very refined workmanship better known as the Codex Aniciae Iulianae. In the Middle Ages various authors are known as Apuleius, but none can be identified as the true author of the manuscript, not even Lucius Apuleius who knew about medicine, but is more famous for having written the Golden Ass. Thus arose the common usage of indicating the author of the herbal as the Pseudo Apuleius, to which was added the term Platonic so as not to confuse him with Lucius Apuleius. Various manuscript copies exist of this herbal, not all of which are exactly alike due to the inevitable distortions from one hand to the next. The alterations are particularly present in the illustrations, which were reproductions of images from copies already in circulation; illustrations, executed by not necessarily skilled draughtsmen. All of the copies in circulation constitute a collection of herbals which is referred to as the Corpus of the Pseudo Apuleius. All of the herbals have a base in Discorides as far as the text is concerned, while the illustrations go back to more ancient works. In the 13th century they all flowed into the group of Fedirician herbals, precursors of more verisimilar types, such as the Circa istans. The manuscript reproduced here in print, refers to a copy, as the editor states in the dedicatory letter to cardinal Gonzaga, preserved at Cassino (Montecassino), probably of the 9th century. It clearly belongs to those works which had a more practical and popular rather than "scientific" purpose, even if the quality of the illustrations does not always assist the novice in the recognition of individual species. The work is composed of 131 chapters (today we would say monographs), but the first, dedicated here to the Herba Bettonica, in other manuscripts is considered to be separate, in that it was attributed, notoriously, to Antonius Musa, physician to Augustus. The ordering is open and no alphabetical rule is followed. Immediately after the title various synonyms are given in several languages. Thereupon follow the illustrations (often right after the title), the conditions curable with the herb in question and some information on how to apply it. There are many curiosities pertaining to magic or astrology, but this is a characteristic common to herbals of the time. The illustrations are elementary, even if some essential characteristics are faithfully reproduced (the umbrella-like inflorescences of the umbellifers, the opposite leaves of the basil and mint plants, the spiral insertion of the leaves of the houseleek rosette, etc.). Numerous plants are depicted with a snake in place of the root, indicating their use in treatment of reptile bites (the herba basilisca has three). The image of the mandrake is similar to other contemporary depictions, a true man-root with a tuft of leaves in place of the head.

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