HERBAL Le Grand Herbier… contenantes les qualitez vertus et proprietez des herbes, arbres, gommes, semences, huyles et pierres precieuses..

Paris, Alain Lotrian, n.d., c. 1530


4to. ff (xxii) 176. Double column, small lettre bâtarde, white on black initials. Title in red and black within typographical border with two woodcuts of plants and large decorative initial, printer’s large device (faded) on verso of last, more than 300 _ page woodcut illustrations to text, almost all of plants. T-p a little browned with slight marginal fraying, light oil stain in final gathering, 2 holes on last leaf affecting a few letters and printer’s device on verso, general age yellowing. A not unused but still good copy of a famously rare work in c.1900 vellum over boards, attractive bookplate 1934 on pastedown. Quaritch pencil collation at end, a.e.r. in slipcase.

Rare and early edition of an anonymous French herbal based on the Antidotarium of Matthaeus Platearius, and likely a shared printing by Lotrian, Janot, Petit and Le Noir. There are probably three earlier editions; two towards the end of the incunable period and another by Nyverd c.1520. There is some variation in the illustrations but the texts are substantially the same and none is readily obtainable. The 22 preliminary ll. comprise first a very detailed table of contents, then an explanation of obscure terms and last a page index. The text, following a short prologue, is arranged in alphabetical order of plants (each usually illustrated) followed by their description and an account of their medicinal virtues. The work is essentially a pharmacoepia, derived from Avicenna, Rhazes, Constantine, Hippocrates and designed for remedial use by country doctors, practical apothecaries and laymen. It draws also on the writings of Jewish and Arab physicians and scholars of the middle ages. The cuts, naïf, accurate and attractive, largely are reduced versions of those appearing in the first edition – they appear here in good, clear impression throughout; they derive ultimately from the Gart of Grunninger. They will have greatly assisted the largely popular readership for which the work was intended.

Although similar in scope to the better known German herbals the Grand Herbier or Arbolayre is textually entirely different, constituting essentially a French imitation of the ‘Secrets of Salerno’. It is the only herbal to have originated in France and unsurprisingly almost all early editions are now known in only a handful of copies; very few scientific ‘Gothiques’ are ever obtainable.

BM STC Fr. C16 has later edition only. Brunet I 378, see Fairfax Murray I 226. Not in Mortimer, Harvard or Durling. Becher p.41 et seq., Wellcome I other edns. Hunt p.47. “The work is of special interest to British botanists since it was translated into English and published in 1526, as the \\\\\\\'Grete Herbal.\\\\\\\' Arber p.24.

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