Herb Dictionary

The Fabio Chigi collection's Greek Dioscorides, a stunning Renaissance copy of the most famous herbal reference of antiquity, is the star turn of last week's digitizations at the Vatican Library.

The work itself is known as De materia medica. This non-text variant is termed a herbarius alphabeticus and is a picture dictionary of the medicinal plants in Greek alphabetical order. This copy, Chig.F.VII.159, is believed to be by the scriptorium of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in mid-15th-century Constantinople, modelled on a 6th-century Dioscorides which is now in Vienna.

One of the finest miniatures shows an artist painting the plants at the instructions of Dioscorides:

Seemingly it had no text at all when first made. Some glosses added are said to be in the hand of Isidore of Kiev (c.1385- 1463), a Greek theologian who was for a time patriarch of all Russia, unsuccessfully sought the reunion of the Orthodox and Catholic churches and escaped death by a ruse in the 1453 fall of Constantinople. Five other hands, two Greek and three Latin, added plant names.

John Murdoch's Album of Science glosses 224v (above) as follows: Each flask is meant to contain the oil or balm specified, the plant from which the oil in question is derived being depicted to one side. Thus beginning at the left of the top row, we have oil of walnut (caryinum), oil of quince (melinum) and radish seed oil (raphaninum). The second row presents us with oil of roses (rosaceum) and some kind of resin oil (retininum).

Chigi's other herbal, the Dioscorides Latino, arrived online a couple of weeks ago. Chigi ended his life as pope Alexander VII. His heirs sold his books to the Vatican in 1923.

In all, 32 codices have just been digitized. The unofficial list:
  1. Barb.gr.331,
  2. Barb.lat.2158, which contains an account of the eruption of Mount Aetna on Sicily:
  3. Capp.Sist.588,
  4. Chig.F.VII.159 (Upgraded to HQ) (above)
  5. Ott.lat.352,
  6. Reg.gr.Pio.II.37 (Upgraded to HQ),
  7. Ross.289,
  8. Urb.lat.599.pt.1,
  9. Urb.lat.605,
  10. Urb.lat.759,
  11. Urb.lat.896,
  12. Urb.lat.1017,
  13. Urb.lat.1038.pt.B,
  14. Urb.lat.1122,
  15. Urb.lat.1215.pt.1,
  16. Urb.lat.1218,
  17. Vat.lat.2479,
  18. Vat.lat.2483, with incipit (see eTK): Medicina artium preclarissima hec verba ... Quoniam ut ars medicorum princeps
  19. Vat.lat.4183,
  20. Vat.lat.4332 (Upgraded to HQ),
  21. Vat.lat.4336,
  22. Vat.lat.4443,
  23. Vat.lat.4544,
  24. Vat.lat.4599,
  25. Vat.lat.4600,
  26. Vat.lat.4602,
  27. Vat.lat.4604,
  28. Vat.lat.4606 (Upgraded to HQ), see Jordanus
  29. Vat.lat.4631,
  30. Vat.lat.4633 (Upgraded to HQ),
  31. Vat.lat.15126,
  32. Vat.turc.340,
This is Piggin's Unofficial List number 195. Thanks to @gundormr for harvesting. If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to DigiVatLib.

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