DODOENS, Rembert


A new herball, or historie of plants: their names, natures, operations, & vertues: and that not onely of those which are heere growing in this our countrie of England but of al others also of forraine realms commonly vsed in physicke.

London, Edm. Bollifant, 1595


4to. pp. (xl), 916, (xlviii). a‐b⁸, c⁴, B‐3P⁸, 3Q². Black letter, some Roman and Italic. Title within ornate typographical border, historiated and floriated woodcut initials, typographical head and tail-pieces and ornaments, occasional early marginalia. Title expertly re-margined, corners of a2 and a few small holes at gutter of the next few leaves restored, light age yellowing, a little soiling in places. A good, clean copy, in handsome modern calf antique, spine and covers ruled in blind.

Third edition (the second printed in England) of the first English version of Dodoens’ celebrated Herbal, translated from French by Henrie Lyte. The work “was a national herbarium devoted to species indigenous to the Flemish provinces. The merit of this book was that rather than proceeding by alphabetical order, as Fuchs had done, Dodoens grouped the plants according to their properties and their reciprocal affinities” (DSB). Henry Lyteʼs English translation was first published in 1578.

Dodoens (1517 – 1585) was the first Flemish botanist to enjoy world wide renown. He was a very successful doctor, physician to the Emperors Maximillian II and Rudolph II and finally Professor of Medicine at Leyden. It was his interest in the medicinal aspects of botany which induced him to write a herbal. A French translation by Charles L’Ecluse appeared very shortly after the original Dutch; Dodoens supervised its progress and took the opportunity to make additions. It forms the basis of the present edition. Lyte (1529 – 1607), after leaving Oxford, travelled extensively in Europe and built a collection of rare plants, which is mentioned by Aubrey. He never published anything original but his translation of Dodoens is of inestimable value. We know from the annotated corrections on Lyte’s working copy, now at the British Library, that he was no mechanical translator, but a painstaking and meticulous scholar who in places introduced his own references and criticisms to the text. Dodoens himself also sent him additional material for inclusion.

The work has three separate indexes: one for the classical Latin names of plants, one for English names, together with a third index “wherein is contained the Nature, Vertues and Dangers of all the Herbs, Trees and Plants, of which is spoken in this present Booke, or Herball”. This last index is essentially a subject index of what plants could do, such as ʻ‘against the bloody flixe”, or “Against Madnesse”, or “to clense and mundifie old rotten ulcers”, with page references to the different plants that would be helpful.

It is difficult to overestimate the influence of Lyte’s work. It was the standard book on herbals and their properties in the English language during the later part of the C16 and exercised considerable influence on both Gerard and Parkinson. So far as we know Lyte was never a physician; Gilman described him as ‘the first of a long line of British amateur Botanists’, but he nevertheless produced a first rate pharmacoepia which must have been invaluable in its day. There are numerous references to plants from the Americas.

STC 6986. ESTC S109768. Pritzel 2345n. Lowndes, II 656. Henrey 112. Not in Wellcome or Durling. Alden 595/21. Arents 19. Arber p. 72-‐‑4 and 106-‐‑8. Rohde p. 93.

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