I discorsi di M. Pietro Andrea Matthioli sanese, medico cesareo, et del serenissimo prencipe Ferdinando arcidvca d'Austria & c. Ne i sei Libri di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo della materia medicinale. Dal suo istesso autore innanzi la sua morte
With a dedication to Princess Johanna, Archduchess of Austria (Mattioli was a royal physician), the six books of the "I discorsi" are published "once more revised by the Author himself, and augmented in more than a thousand places. With the large figures all redone anew, & drawn from natural & living plants and animals, & in greater number than the others previously published." This is how Pietro Andrea Mattioli himself presents this new edition of his book, which had already gained a broad consensus of favor and which, with this edition, will reach the apex of its success, thanks in fact to its much more organic mode of presentation, its completeness of information, and above all the richness and clarity of its illustrations. He who knew all of the virtues of plants would be able to perform miracles. This declaration by the author seems to serve as his inspiration as he patiently seeks out every pretext to praise the medicinal virtue of each herb, as he relates every anecdote, every unusual bit of information, every consideration given to the subject by other scholars. The encyclopedic tone of the work is evident (we see it already in the dedication), but the author’s prose, and here his Tuscan and specifically Sienese background do not betray him, is nimble, clear, appropriate for a broad readership, and for that vast world of medicine and pharmacology of the times. Not by chance was this text among the few that remained in use the longest, even in the meager family libraries of the poor and nearly illiterate. The hefty dedication is followed by a preface dedicated to those in the profession and the usual complimentary letters.Two large tables follow, two indices, one analytical for all of the entries and the other for the pathologies. The work itself begins with a full-page portrait of Mattioli and describes in sequence the medicinal plants (in the first four books) as well as a series of preparations (oils, ointments, etc.) when the occasion arises. Mattioli takes obvious pleasure in being able to go on at length about the exact identification of each species, demonstrating his vast botanical knowledge, but above all in showing the splendid images of the plants, of which he uses more than one, comparing them whenever doubts arise. The second book is dedicated in part to marine animals (urchins, sponges, cuttlefish, fish, etc.) and land animals (hares, deer, beavers, toads, etc.), including snakes and bees with their respective products (honey, wax, propolis and so forth). The fifth book is dedicated to minerals and the sixth to poisons. For each entry he quotes Dioscorides’ text translated into Italian. He then provides a modern identification and description with analogies and comparisons to the opinions of various authors, and finally he gives their virtues and their names in various languages. It is a work which left its mark upon the medical and pharmaceutical literature of the Renaissance and whose every page fascinates us even today.