Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Brief History of Using Plants as Medicine - Early Herbals & Pharmacies

1325 Apothecary shops were illustrated in manuscripts. This is from an antidotary called “Circa instans” London, British Library, ms Sloane fol 49v.

The word herbal comes from the medieval Latin liber herbalis, book of herbs. Much information found in printed herbals arose out of traditional medicine and garden herbal knowledge which predated the invention of writing.  Before the advent of printing, herbals were produced as manuscripts, which could be kept as scrolls or loose sheets, or bound into codices. Early handwritten herbals were often illustrated with paintings and drawings. Like other manuscript books, herbals were passed down through repeated copying by hand, either by professional scribes or by readers themselves. In the process of making a copy, the scribe would often translate, expand, adapt, or reorder the content. Most original manuscript herbals have been lost; some have survived only as later copies, and others are known only through references in other texts.
1400 Apothecary shops were illustrated in manuscripts. Theriac shop, Vienna Tacuinum sanitatis, fol 53v

As printing became available, it was promptly used to publish herbals. In Europe, the 1st printed herbal with woodcut illustrations, the Puch der Natur of Konrad of Megenberg, appeared in 1475. Metal-engraved plates were 1st used about 1580. As woodcuts and metal engravings could be reproduced indefinitely, they were traded among printers.  There was a large increase in the number of illustrations together with an improvement in quality and detail.  
1526 Peter Treveris's Grete Herball

The 1st herbal printed in Britain appears to be Richard Banckes' Herball of 1525 which was unillustrated and was soon eclipsed by the most famous of the early printed herbals, Peter Treveris's Grete Herball of 1526, derived from the French Grand Herbier.
1400s Apothecary shops were illustrated in manuscripts. From Tacuinum Sanitatis, a medical codex, written and illuminated for the Cerruti Family, probably from Verona 

William Turner (?1508–7 to 1568) was an English naturalist, botanist, and theologian who studied at Cambridge University and eventually became known as the “father of English botany." 
1500 A pharmacy woodcut of seller of theriac from Hieronymus Braunschweig

His 1538 publication Libellus de re Herbaria Novus was the 1st known essay on scientific botany in English. His 3-part A New Herball of 1551–1562–1568, with woodcut illustrations taken from Fuchs, was noted for its original contributions and extensive medicinal content; it was also more accessible to readers, being written in vernacular English. Turner described over 200 species native to England. 
1497 Apothecary shops were illustrated in manuscripts. Hortus Sanitatis, Strasbourg

John Gerard's (1545–1612) Herball of 1597 is, like most herbals, largely derivative. This became the basis of Gerard's Herball or General Historie of Plantes that appeared in 1597 with its 1800 woodcuts (only 16 original). 
1597 The frontispiece of John Gerard's book Herball or General Historie of 1597 showing a couple strolling among raised beds of plants grown for medical purposes

Although largely derivative, Gerard's popularity can be attributed to his evocation of plants and places in Elizabethan England and to the clear influence of gardens and gardening on this work. He had published, in 1596, Catalogus which was a list of 1033 plants growing in his garden.
1655 By the mid 17C some Englishmen were devoted to herbs and roots.  The English Hermite or Wonder of this Age 

John Parkinson (1567–1650) was apothecary to James I and a founding member of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. He was an enthusiastic and skillful gardener, his garden in Long Acre was stocked with rarities. He maintained an active correspondence with important English and Continental botanists, herbalists and plantsmen importing new and unusual plants from overseas, in particular the Levant and Virginia. Parkinson is celebrated for his 2 monumental works, the 1st Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris in 1629: this was essentially a gardening book, a florilegium for which Charles I awarded him the title Botanicus Regius Primarius – Royal Botanist. The second was his Theatrum Botanicum of 1640, the largest herbal ever produced in the English language. It lacked the quality illustrations of Gerard's works, but was a massive and informative compendium including about 3800 plants (twice the number of Gerard's 1st edition Herball), over 1750 pages and over 2,700 woodcuts. This was effectively the last and culminating herbal of its kind and although it included more plants of no discernible economic or medicinal use than ever before, they were nevertheless arranged according to their properties rather than their natural affinities.
1657 The whole Art of Physick restored to practice and The Apothecary’s Shop Opened in London

Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654) was an English botanist, herbalist, physician, apothecary and astrologer from London's East End. His published books were A Physicall Directory (1649), which attempted to be a scientific pharmacopoeia. The English Physician (1652) and the Complete Herbal (1653), contain a rich store of pharmaceutical and herbal knowledge. His works lacked scientific credibility because of their use of astrology, though he combined diseases, plants and astrological lore into a simple integrated system.
1657 The whole Art of Physick restored to practice and The Apothecary’s Shop Opened in London

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