Herbarum vires Macer tibi carmine dicet

np. [Paris] np. [Pierre Baquelier]. nd. [c, 1515]


8vo. 160 unnumbered leaves. a-v8. [last blank]. Gothic letter. Large woodcut on title of scholar in his study, 65 large woodcuts of plants within double ruled border, small white on black criblé initials, bibliographical notes in a C19th hand on fly, extensive marginal annotations throughout in a contemporary French hand, last blank filled , recto and verso, with notes in the same hand, C19th Label of “J Baart de la Faille, Med. Prof. Groningen”, on pastedown another of ‘K. F. Koehlers Anitiquarium, Leipzig’ above. Title page a little dusty, light age yellowing, the odd marginal thumb mark or spot, very minor occasional marginal water-stain. A good copy, crisp and generally clean, in C19th three-quarter calf over paper boards, spine with raised bands ruled in gilt, brown morocco label gilt lettered, all edges sprinkled red corners and joints a little worn.

Very rare and interesting edition of this early French herbal, one of the earliest illustrated editions, with 65 cuts of plants. This copy most interestingly has many marginal annotations with further notes at the end in a contemporary French hand. The work takes the form of a Latin poem in hexameters, a poetic verse form that was most likely employed as a mnemonic device for physicians and midwives, describing the medical virtues of herbs. It was written under the pseudonym of Macer (with reference to the Roman poet Aemilius Macer, d. 15 BC). The author is generally identified with the French physician Odo de Meung-sur-Loire whose name is mentioned in a 12th-century copy of the text. This is“Perhaps the second edition with the prose commentary of Guill. Gueroaldus, which probably first appeared at Caen in 1509: see Brunet , III. 1270. The woodcut on the title is adapted from the earlier editions. The 65 woodcuts of plants are closely copied also, but now have double line borders. .. It was translated into English by John Lelarmouse, master of Hereford School in 1373. ‘Macer’s Herbal practysyd by Doctor Lynacro’ was published by R Wyer about 1530.” Fairfax Murray.

The text titled has been traditionally attributed to Odo de Meung, who is believed to have lived during the first half of the 11th century. Recent research has shown, however, that the De Viribus Herbarum was probably written in an earlier version, perhaps during the tenth century in Germany. The text was further expanded, including new data from the translation of Arabic texts into Latin in Salerno from the end of the 11th century onward. If this is the case, this text is good evidence of the continuity of scientific activity in the Middle Ages: its most ancient parts come from a period when there was a revival of interest in botany and a recovery of the classical tradition, while the most recent additions integrate the contribution of the Arabic world.

“What was undoubtedly one of the more widely read works in this field (Botany) during the entire medieval period appeared contemporaneously with both Constantinus and the rise of Salerno. This work, an herbal entitled Macer Floridus De Virtutibus Herbarum, consists of a catalogue of 77 herbs and their supposed medicinal properties; all expressed in 2269 lines of vulgar Latin verse. Even more curious is the fact that the poem not only refers to earlier medieval and botanical authors such as Walafrid Strabo; it was itself copied in part into the most significant remaining document of the medical school of Salerno, the Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum. Macer Floridus is important not only for medical and botanical knowledge but also for a wider range of medieval intellectual history. Its significance lies in the fact that it is the first document of such length to indicate a renewed interest in these subjects in the 11th century, and appears to reflect no direct influence from any Arabic sources.” Bruce Flood. ‘The Medieval Herbal tradition of Macer Floridus.’

It was a very popular work going through several editions at the beginning of the the C16th  and this rare edition contains a very charming suite of cuts . “Rare. One of the earliest editions with the esteemed commentary by Guilelmus Gueroaldus (Gueroust or Gueroult), who was professor of medicine at Caen at the end of the 15th century. There exist different editions of the Macer Floridus consisting of the same number of 159 leaves, with the signatures a-v. Although they resemble each other very much, they are not identical.” Becher.

BM STC Fr. C16th p. 295. Fairfax Murray I 347. Renouard, Imprimeurs et libraires parisiens du XVI siecle, t.3 n.35. Becher, A Catalogue of Early Herbals, 65. Arber p. 40.


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