Chirguia nova

Frankfurt, Johannes Sauerius, 1598


8vo, pp.605 (xi). Roman letter, some italic, title in red and black with printer’s woodcut device, very faint library stamp probably c.1900 at side, 22 full page woodcuts of surgical equipment and patients, very clearly drawn, detailed and well defined. General age browning, some spotting, intermittent near-contemp marginalia, ex libris of Andreas Libavius on pastedown, early and 19th century bibliographical notes on fly. In contemp stiff vellum, remains of label and ties, small gilt-stamped ex libris to upper cover.

Second edition, first published under the title ‘De curatorum chirugia per institionem’ in Venice the previous year of Taliacotius’ (or Tagliacozzis’) ground-breaking work on plastic surgery, the first book dedicated exclusively to that subject and the magnum opus of its founder. Taliacotius (1545-1599) studied in his native Bologna under Cardano, Aldrovandi and Aranzzi before being becoming successively professor of surgery and anatomy there. Before the Renaissance, methods of reparing the damage from duels and warfare were maintained as trade secrets by the barber-surgeons; nasal reconstruction was particularly profitable business. Although Celsus and others had discussed aspects of plastic surgery, (Vesalius very wrongly), Taliacotius was the first to establish their scientific validity and to improve techniques in light of the best medical knowledge of the day. Soon his skill was renowned throughout Europe and the present treatise published to encapsulate his life’s work. In the Chirugia nova Taliacotius describes the first delayed flap for nasal deconstruction, detailing the theory behind the procedure, depicts the instrumentation and describes the progressive steps of the operation as well as post-operation bandages and care. We know that Taliacotius obtained excellent results. Curiously, in the 17th century European surgery suffered a period of decline and none more so than plastic surgery. Taliacotius’ successful methods were actually forgotten and not rediscovered until the beginning of the 19th century.

Andreas Libavius, or Libau, from Halle, studied at Wittenberg, Jena and Basel, where he took his M.D, ultimately becoming rector of the Gymnasium at Colny. Francis Yates in ‘The Rosecrucean Enlightenment’ says of him “Andreas Libravius was one of those chymists who was influenced to a point by the new teachings of Paracelsus, adhering theoretically to the traditional Aristotelian and Galenist teachings and rejecting the Paracelsis mysticism…. Libravius is strongly against devices of macro-microcosmic harmony, against Magia and Cabala, against Hermes Trismegistes (from whose supposed writings he makes many quotations), against Agrippa and Trithemius – in short, he is against the Renaissance….’

‘The volume is divided in two parts: “the first… is about the structure, function and physiology of the nose, and the second… describes and illustrates the instruments and operative procedures for the restoration of the nose, lip and ear. Tagliacozzi also fully discusses the complications such as hemorrhage and gangrene, that often occurred during these operations. The numerous full-page woodcuts are well-executed and illustrate many of the techniques described in the text” Heirs of Hippocrates 236 (1597) ed.

BM STC Ger p.848. Durling 4312. Garrison & Morton 5734 (1597). Wellcome I 6211. Osler 4079.


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Thaumatographia naturalis.

Amsterdam, Guilielm Blaeu, 1632.


FIRST EDITION. 12mo., (xii) 501 (iii). Roman and Italic letter, woodcut initials and tail-pieces, title page with printer’s device of an orrery. Light age browning, otherwise a good clean copy with C17 annotations, in contemporary English calf, covers triple-ruled in blind, spine remounted, all edges red.

FIRST EDITION of Jonston’s most popular work on “admiranda” or wonders of nature organised into ten categories (heaven, earth, and topics relating to meteors, ‘fossils’ or minerals, plants, birds, quadrupeds, insects and ‘bloodless’ animals, fish, and humans). The work draws heavily from classical sources such as Aristotle, Pliny, and Seneca, but also from the more recent work of Aldrovandi, and in the section on plants includes descriptions of the flora and fauna of the New World, as well as tobacco. Each section is headed by a useful index to its contents, and the work concludes with a poem in praise of Jonston by the Bohemian poet Venceslaus Clemens.

John Jonston (1603 – 1675) emigrated from Poland to Scotland in 1622 and studied natural history at St. Andrew’s for four years. He received the degree of Doctor of Physic from both Leyden and Cambridge. Despite the compact size of Thaumaturgia, his earliest work, its wide range of material prefigures his later, large-scale works on Fish, Insects, Birds, and Trees, made possible by his extensive travel through Europe and access to its libraries, as well as first-hand observation.

Venceslaus Clemens (1589 – 1640?), Protestant and prolific Neo-Latin poet, was forced to leave his native Bohemia after the Battle of White Mountain. His Gustavis, printed the same year as the Thaumatographia, describes the anguish of exile and praises Gustavus Adolphus and the victory of the Swedish Army at the Battle of Breitenfeld, which Clemens credits as saving the Protestant cause in Europe.

Garrison-Morton 287 “A compilation of all the contemporary zoological knowledge”. Wellcome I 3477. Alden II 632/48. Not in Shaaber or Sabin.


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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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Trois livres de la santé, foecundité et maladies des femmes.

Paris, Jacques du Puys, 1582.


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp. (xvi) 923 (i) (xvi). Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device to title page, depicting Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well, fine woodcut initials and head-pieces. One or two later manuscript marginal notes. Very light water staining, mostly marginal, to first few leaves and index. Small worm hole to title page, not affecting text. A very good, clean copy in contemporary vellum, a little soiled, fore-edges chewed, lacking ties, in modern box.

First French edition (translated from the Latin De sanitate, faecunditatae et morbis mulierum of the same year) of this gynaecological handbook by Jean Liébault (c.1535-1596), doctor and agronomist. It was one of the very first vernacular works, designed for the laywoman, about the female physical condition. Liébault was born in Dijon but moved to Paris to study medicine, where he became a successful doctor, highly esteemed by both colleagues and patients. He married Nicole Estienne, daughter of the great Parisian printer Charles Estienne (1504-1564), who had himself studied medicine under Jacob Sylvius alongside the young Vesalius. Liébault completed and translated his father-in-law’s Praedium rusticum into French as La maison rustique (1564); a translation of Gesner’s Quatres livres des secrets de médecine followed in 1573.

Trois livres de la santé was the first of two works on feminine health and beauty he published in 1582. De l’ornement & beautez des Femmes is advertised in the present work. Madame Liébault, a noted femme des lettres, was herself the author of Misères de la femme mariée, mises en forme de stances, and the manuscript Apologie pour les femmes, contre ceux qui en médisent. She predeceased her husband by some years; the contemporary diarist Pierre de L’Estoile records that Liébault died suddenly, after sitting down to rest on a stone in the rue Gervais-Laurent.

Liébault’s introduction to the present work laments the infinite number of maladies which accompany any person through his or her life, ‘mais plus griefues en affliction tormentent le corps de la femme comme celuy de l’homme.’ Woman, he takes care to emphasise, ‘n’est animant mutile ny imparfaict, mais foible & maladif.’ His work describes and suggests causes and remedies – often more than one – for a range of gynaecological complaints, in chronological order from childhood to motherhood; Liébault does not advise on the maladies of women beyond child-bearing age. Young girls, he notes, may be subject to nervous illnesses, nausea, headache and neuralgia. He deals with menstruation, venereal disease and various renal and gastro-intestinal problems, before proceeding to the subject of conception and childbirth, which occupies the greatest portion of the book.

Obesity, male and female, is listed among the causes of infertility; common birth defects are described, along with less common ones such as hermaphroditism. Alongside a discussion of family resemblance in young children (with a gentle reminder that even animals and plants have an urge to reproduce in their own image), Liébault also addresses the question of when a child receives his or her soul. Of particular interest is the chapter devoted to the performance of caesarean section, which, given the high mortality rate, is advised only as a last resort. The first modern caesarean section which the mother is known to have survived had been performed as recently as 1500. Liébault concludes with advice on the treatment of the newborn and the new mother. The work contains a detailed table of contents and index, and a brief list of errata.

BM STC Fr. 266; Brunet III, 1074; Wellcome I, 3800; Durling 2959 (attributed to Giovanni Marinelli); not in Adams, Heirs of Hippocrates, Osler, Garrison and Morton or Erdman.


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VENUSTI, Antonio Maria


Discorso generale intorno alla generatione, al nascimento de gli huomini.

Venice, Giovanni Griffio for Giovan Battista Somasco, 1562.


FIRST EDITION, 8vo., ff. (xxiv), 147 (i) (leaves in G inverted). Dedication in Roman letter, text in Italic; woodcut ornaments and initials, printer’s centaur device on title, large woodcut emblem of the Dadda family preceding dedication; some age yellowing, infrequent light spotting. C18th century white on black armorial library stamp of Oratius Luccesinus preceding title page. In contemporary purple dyed vellum, later silver panel with interesting Greek style decoration at corners and central arabesque enclosing large “L” on upper cover, floral decoration on lower; all in silver. Re-backed, original spine partially remounted. Lacking ties.

First edition of Venusti’s work on birth, death and the brevity of life. The text is divided into 139 chapters, covering a wide range of topics more or less controversial but all highly practical and of popular interest, including abortion, why good men die young, and why teeth cannot be destroyed by fire. The definition of the hermaphrodite is given, along with curiosities such as facts about the famous Milanese dwarfs, and explanations to conundrums of the lay person – why Turkish men have more wives and why lust is especially characteristic of the hairy and the lame.

The author starts by describing the dignity of marriage, the relationship of husband and wife and the treatment of moral, social and sexual behaviour. He moves on to medical prescriptions and superstitions in cases of pregnancy, birth and children, complete with indications on care and education, often referring to the opinions of Avicenna, Aristotle, Averroes, Cicero, Plato, Homer and the Bible. The result is a mixture of medicine and philosophy. The last section discusses natural and unnatural ways of dying and the division of time into years, days and hours. The origins of time measurement are debated including philosophical speculations on its nature.

Oratius Luccesinus was a member of a family prominent in Lucca in the first half of eighteenth century belonging to the nobility of the city. The decoration of the binding is unusual combining the Renaissance and the beginnings of Neoclassicism.

Antonio Maria Venusti (1529 – 1585) was a doctor from Grosio, a village near the city of Sondrio. He descended from a poor branch of the Venosta family, the Earls of Tirolo, which in the CXIV ruled that region. He lived in Milan at the court of Dadda family who undertook his education since his father had died during his boyhood and Venusti dedicated this work to the ten sons of Erasmo Dadda. Their motto, NEC VI NEC SPONTO, on p. b2v, is represented in the centre of a chain made up of ten diamond rings, compared in verse by Giovanni Battista Porro to the valour and strength of the Dadda family.

BM.STC. It. p.718; Wellcome I 6537; Durling 4570.


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De chirurgica institutione librie quinque

Lyon, apud Guliel Rouillium sub scuto Veneto, 1567.


8vo. pp. [xvi] 488 [xlviii]. Roman and Italic letter, woodcut initials, head- and tail-pieces, printed side-notes, woodcut printer’s device on t.p. of eagle and snakes, full-page woodcuts on pp 165-6 of wounded human figures and surgery, half and full page woodcuts throughout of surgical tools, three diagrams of the human skeleton pp 406-410. Light age yellowing, upper margin trimmed without loss. A good a clean copy in C17th vellum over boards, initials “P B A C” stamped in black on upper and ‘1665’ on lower cover, remains of green ties, a.e.r.

Attractive edition of a popular surgical text, drawn from the writings of Guy de Chauliac (1300-1368) that “treats of the nature and cure of wounds, tumors, hernias, ulcers, fractures and dislocations. A sixth book by Jacques Houllier describes the tools of surgery. Several interesting woodcuts appear to be reduced copies of plates from Vesalius’ Tabulae anatomicae sex [1538]” (Heirs of Hippocrates cit. inf.). A product of its time, Tagault’s surgical guide does not draw upon medical experience as a source for new information so much as confirm what Galen and the ancients had written. Using public dissection to teach surgery was a controversial practice, formally instituted in 1483 at Paris’ conservative medical school where Tagault taught, behind its rivals Montpellier which had allowed public dissections as early as 1377, and Bologna in 1300. Nevertheless Tagault played an important role in forcing the medical profession outside of the shadow of received knowledge. In November 1534 he was made dean of the medical faculty at Paris – when a young Vesalius was studying there – and was among the few teachers who performed dissections of human cadavers and offered their students the same rare opportunity (O’Malley cit. infr.). An interesting work anticipating the age of medical progress Vesalius’s anatomical illustrations would make possible.

Baudrier IX 314. Wellcome 6207. Durling 4302. Heirs of Hippocrates 109 (earlier edition). Ossler 643 and Garrison and Morton 5562 cite earlier anthologies containing the work, compiled by Gesner. O’Malley, C.D. Andreas Vesalius of Brussels 1514-1564, pp 47, 59.


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PLATTER, Felix and Thomas

Questionum Medicarum Paradoxarum & Endoxarum

Basel, Ludovici Regis, 1625.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo, pp. [xvi] 277 [xi]. Roman and italic letter, printer device on t-p, historiated and floriated initials, ornamental tail pieces, age foxing. A very good copy in a beautiful contemp rigid vellum over board, flat spine gilt with four compartments, double gilt-tooled frames with corner fleurons and central oval ornamental piece, gilt edges, ms. author’s name and date on spine, remains of silk green ties.

First edition of this essay on anatomy, particularly blood circulation with a useful index at end. Felix Platter’s work is a gathering of medical questions divided under five subjects headings: “Physiologicae”, “Pathologicae”, “Simeioticae”, “Hygieinae”, and “Therapeuticae”. The first (and longest) section answers a wide variety of questions about the human body, from birth (including removal of the umbilical chord) to death (including why corpses sometimes take on a yellowish color) with many tips in between, even a short discussion of ‘why the fingers are pale’ and suggesting exposure to sunlight, but warning against sunburn. The final four sections deal more with sickness, symptoms, hygiene including diet, and nutrition as well as women’s health, and finally a small collection of cures including the use of precious stones to draw illnesses from the blood. With such a wide variety of topics in a question-and-answer format, the book was probably intended for use as a household reference guide for the contemporary ailing humanist.

Felix Platter ( 1536-1614) was the son of Thomas Platter, a well-know printer. He is known today for his medical activity and his work on human pathology, especially ‘De corporis humani structura’, which made him famous. He was a faithful disciple of Eustachi, Fallopio, and above all, of Vesalius, from whose De humani corporis fabrica much of his own writing was derived. From his books and especially from public autopsies, which he performed in Basel, he soon acquired a reputation as an important anatomist. As a practicing pediatrician he was ahead of his time, and his works were authoritative until the beginning of the eighteenth century.(C. Coulston Gillipie).

The work is annotated based on the studies and experience of Felix’s younger brother, Thomas Platter (1574-1628), anatomical and botanical professor at Basel where he practiced medicine. He also wrote a journal where he describes his travel through Western Europe (France, Spain, England and Netherlands), a sort of humanistic and initiatory journey with several hand-drawings and plans. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, a French historian, wrote an important work on the Platter’s family.

VD 17, Michaud, vol XXXIV, p.487 “ On doit à Thomqs Platter une édition du Traité de pratique de son frère (Bâle 1625 in-8) avec quelques corrections et additions résultat de sa propre expérience ». Not in Heirs of Hippocrates, Osler, or Wellcome.


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Gli ornamenti delle donne.

Venice, Giouanni Valgrisio, 1574.


8vo. ff. (viii) 376 (xxxvi). a⁸, A-3E⁸, 3F3. (lacking last blank). Italic letter. Woodcut printer’s device on title, large floriated woodcut initials, typographical ornaments, early manuscript ex-libris on blank margins of title page, Gino Sabattini’s art deco bookplate signed ‘N. Nugino’ on pastedown. Light age yellowing,title page fractionally dusty, the occasional marginal mark or spoy. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in eighteenth century half calf over speckled paper boards, all edges red. slight loss at head and tail of spine.

Rare second edition of this important treatise on cosmetics and hygiene, a beauty manual (one of the few from Renaissance Italy to survive) by the celebrated physician and natural philosopher Giovanni Marinelli, the author of several works on medicine. “Two of his medical books were specifically concerned with women’s well being, and were composed in the vernacular, suggesting that he wanted women themselves to be enlightened about their health. One, Women’s Ornaments (Gli ornamenti delle donne, Venice 1562) is a practical manual of hygiene and beauty, from bleaching hair and whitening teeth to removing bodily odors. It is remarkable for its sane defense of women’s quest for physical attractiveness.” Letizia Panizza.

The work is crammed full of remedies for all sorts of ailments, cosmetic and hygienic, and includes many recipes for perfumes. Particularly revealing is the Venetian noblewoman’s penchant for tinting her hair blond, and Marinelli’s manual contains no less than twenty six recipes for hair dye. “It is a very detailed treatment of personal hygiene, and of the exacting demands of hygienic principles in the care of the human body. The author deals with the many ways to keep the single parts of the body in shape, with methods for removing defects which interfere with the symmetry of the body. There are chapters about hair, its care, remedies for thinning hair and for colouring. Other chapters are devoted to eyes eyebrows, ears, lips, neck, breasts. Recipes for the preparation of essences for baths, perfumes and balms are given, as well as reducing and weight gaining diets” Axel Erdmann.

Giovanni was the father of the noted feminist writer Lucrezia Marinella, author of ‘La nobilta et l’eccellenza delle donne, co’difetti et mancamenti de gli uomini’ (The Nobility and Excellence of Women, and the Defects and Vices of Men). “From his own writings and Marinella’s fond references to him, Giovanni Marinelli emerges as a kind, paternal figure who promoted his daughter’s studies and women’s education in general.” She certainly benefited from a full education, not the case for the vast majority of women of her background.

“His views on women were bold; indeed, they were feminist. Giovanni Marinelli dedicated his Gli ornamenti delle donne to all ‘chaste and young women’, in the device of repaying a debt of gratitude to them for showing such interest in his previous work on Italian grammar. (…) This handbook of advice on women’s health and beauty presents a striking departure from the contemporary tendency to stigmatize women’s concern with their physical appearance as vanity. Making an explicit point of his feminism, however, Marinelli also prefaced his text with a brief defense of women, which rehearsed the prominent features of the ‘querelle des femmes’ and underscored his status as a humanist contributing to this pervasive literary debate.” Sarah Ross ‘The Birth of Feminism’.

BM STC It C16th p. 417. Welcome 4059. Axel Erdmann, ‘My Gracious Silence’, no. 15. Durling 2963. Kelso, pp.387-388, no. 547. Not in Brunet, Graesse or Gamba.


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MARTINI, Matthaeus


De moribis mesenterii abstrusioribus.

Leipzig, Capar Closemann, 1630.


8vo., pp. (16) 365 (41). Roman and italic letter. A good, well-margined copy, vellum stub in early English hand, in fine contemporary English calf, border triple-ruled in blind, slightly worn at foot of spine, all edges speckled red. “price 1:4” on verso of fly, on title page “W.K. p. 1:4” and “Will: Kemp” in contemporary manuscript.

Third edition of a medical treatise published in 1616 and 1625, concerning illnesses of mesentery, or the lining between the bowels and the back wall of the abdomen, by Matthaeus Martini, a physician from Eiselben. The treatise describes the causes of obstruction in this area of the body, offering dietary remedies like citrus, and concludes with practical remedies for purging the body of illness, sometimes literally, as with Martini’s recipe for vomitus provocatio. It also links the illnesses of the lower body to the mind; Martini argues that diseases of the mesentery are symptoms of melancholy, cold and dry black bile, so warm and moderately dry climates are recommended.

The second part takes up more than half the volume, and considers the mesentery in terms of ‘the history and management of the mental condition of hypocondriacs,’ melancholy. Following a poem about imbalances of the humours, by which the mesentery and bowels are first affected, Martini provides a compendium of remedies from Galen, Hippocrates, Avicenna and others, to treatments resulting from his own research. He concludes with an extensive index.

A similar position was taken by Robert Burton, who lists the mesentery among the chief causes of hypochondriacal (or ‘windy’) melancholy in Part I of The Anatomy of Melancholy. Both authors cite Laurentius to support their assertion, and it is striking that both draw causal links between the psychological and the physical — although Martini offers these in a shorter, more practical medical guide. He describes his own work in the subtitle, as ‘according to a School of Physicians until now overlooked, and not written by a famous Ancient.’

In the dedicatory preface (addressed to the Lords and Nobles of the city of Nuremberg), Martini explains that he spent most of his life training in Italy, under Doctor Phillippus Camerarus, a native of Cologne who had also been educated in Italy until held a heretic by the Inquisition. Little is known about Martini himself. His other works include a treatise on the diagnosis and cure of scurvy (1624), and another work on hypochondria (1643). An interesting copy clearly imported into England in sheets; Kemp unfortunately has not been identified.

BMC C17 Ger. M394. Wellcome 4091. Not in Durling, Heirs of Hippocrates, Garrison, Morton or Osler.


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

Paris, Alain Lotrian, 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 woodcut illustrations, almost all of plants. Title page a little browned with slight marginal fraying, light oil stain in final gathering, two 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, all edges red 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 twenty-two preliminary leaves comprise a very detailed table of contents, an explanation of obscure terms, and a page index. The text, following a short prologue, is arranged in alphabetical order of plants (usually illustrated) followed by their description and an account of their medical uses.

The work is essentially a pharmacopoeia, inspired by Avicenna, Rhazes, Constantine, and Hippocrates. It is designed for remedial purposes by country doctors, practical apothecaries and laymen. It also draws on the writings of Jewish and Arab physicians and scholars of the Middle Ages. The cuts, accurate and attractive, are for the most part reduced versions of those appearing in the first edition. Here they are printed in good, clear impression throughout, in a hand similar to Gart of Grunninger. They were clearly addressed to a popular readership.

Although similar in scope to the better known German herbals, the Grand Herbier or Arbolayre is textually different, in essence 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 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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