MARBODAEUS [with] PSEUDO-APULEIUS De gemmarum lapidumque pretiosorum formis [with] De viribus herbarum

I) Cologne, Hero Alopecius, 1539 II) Paris, apud Petrum Drouert, 1543


8vo. 2 works in 1, ff. 124 (ii); 32. Roman letter, occasional Greek. First t-p with striking woodcut high priest linking precious stones to biblical figures, decorated initials and ornaments to both. A little light browning, I: three small worm holes to first two gatherings touching the occasional letter, scattered ink splashes and one marginal tear to last gathering, II: light stain at upper margin. Good copies in contemporary reversed sheep, C15 rubricated ms. used as spine lining just visible, loss to spine (sewing exposed), covers rubbed, joints cracked but firm, corners worn, two small worm holes to upper cover. C16 ms. ‘Emptus 10 f.’ to front pastedown, C16 and C19 bibliographic notes to ffep, ms. ‘86’ to t-p.

Scarce editions of two works on the virtues of precious stones and herbs. Marbodus (c.1035-1123) was Bishop of Rennes, a poet and hagiographer. ‘De gemmarum lapidumque formis’, his first work to appear in print, in 1511, was translated into several vernaculars in the middle ages, even influencing Hebrew lapidaries. This 1543 edition was produced by the humanists Alardus Amstelredamus and Pictorius Villinganus on the basis of a longer ms.; it contains nearly 100 additional lines, and 16 stones, of uncertain authorship, in a separate section. A century before the successful lapidary attributed to Albertus Magnus, it discussed precious stones ‘in a novel way, listing them one by one, paying sole attention to their alleged properties’ (d’Angeville, 7). Written in exquisite Latin metre, each of the 63 sections is devoted to a single gem (e.g., iaspis, sapphire, chrysopasius), explaining its formation, appearance, etymology, exotic origins (e.g., Ethiopia or India), medical properties (against fever, helpful to women giving birth) and preparations. This is followed by Alardus’s and Pictorius’s learned commentaries, which add ms. textual variants, and references to ancient authorities like Pliny, Dioscorides, Galen or the Church Fathers, and more recent ones like Camillus Leonardus and Marisilio Ficino. Variants also included additional information on the stone’s virtues (e.g., iaspis ‘curbs sexual desire’ by reducing the menstrual cycle and the possibilities of conception).

The second work was ‘the most practical and most widely used remedy book in the […] Middle Ages’ (‘Western Herbal Tradition’, 6). It survives in numerous illustrated mss and was even translated into Old English. It is attributed to a Pseudo-Apuleius as the unknown author presented the herbal as the work of the famous 2nd-century author, Apuleius of Madaura. Based on Pliny and Dioscorides, the text was probably written in the 4th century. This edition was produced by Johannes Philippus de Lignamine and dedicated to Cardinal Gonzaga. It comprises studies of 132 common herbs, including their Greek, Latin and French names, their environment, appearance, flavour, medical properties, preparation (including quantity) and administration, according to specific ailments (e.g., paralysis, chills, wounds, worms, generic pain, nose bleed). Interesting is the frequent appearance of remedies against the bite of snakes, scorpions and even rabid dogs.

Two important works of early Western natural science, in scarce early editions.

I) UCB, Pierpont Morgan and NLM copies recorded in the US.Wellcome I, 4040; Schuh, Bib. of Mineralogy, n.5 (‘very rare’); Osleriana 5126. Not in Durling or BM STC Ger. A.-J. Dézallier d’Argenville, L’histoire naturelle (Paris, 1755).II) 5 copies recorded in the US.BM STC Fr., p.21. Not in Wellcome, Osleriana or Durling.
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