A very rare work, expanding and improving the famous Hortus Sanitatis

[Villanova, A. de]

Den groten herbarius met al den figuerender cruyden. Om die crachten d' cruyden te onderkennen ... Een tractaet om alle orijnen te iudicerene.

Published 1532
Item ID 77365

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Utrecht, Jan van Doesborch, 1532. Folio (26.1 x 19.2 cm). 392 pp., including title in red and black with three woodcuts; a further 697 woodcuts including two page-sized: one, on p. 335, of a human skeleton, the other on the final page; numerous woodcut capitals and ornaments. Near contemporary blind vellum. Script title in an old hand on the spine. Edges speckled red.

The third, enlarged, Dutch edition, and the only edition of Den Groten Herbarius (The Great Herbal) by Van Doesborch, a work traditionally attributed to the Catalan physician Arnaldus de Villa Nova (c. 1240-1311), or, erroneously, to the German scholar Johann von Wonnecke Caub, also known as Johannes de Cuba (1430-1503). Den Groten Herbarius "contain[s] 435 short, numbered chapters on plants and other natural resources that have medicinal qualities. Each chapter is preceded by a woodcut illustration and then gives a brief characterisation of a plant’s qualities, its appearance, the workings of its various parts, and medicinal recipes for its application. Short additional treatises at the end of the book, increasing in number in each new edition, deal with such topics as uroscopy, anatomy, the preparation of ointments and plasters and other medicines, and cultivating trees. ... [It] contains several indications that its producers combined and adapted different sources in order to appeal to an audience that extended well beyond medical practitioners, and that the illustrations played a key role in this presentational strategy" (Leerdam). The basis of this work was the famous incunable, Hortus Sanitatis, but the present work contains many additions and corrections. The other Dutch editions were all printed in Antwerp, in 1514, 1520, 1526, 1533 (as a reaction to this edition), and 1547. "Many of the surviving copies [of any edition] were apparently heavily used, though not read to destruction" (Leerdam). This copy, however, has miraculously escaped this fate and is in a wonderful condition. Probably the rarest edition. Van Leerdam records only two copies, in the National Library of Medicine (Bethesda, MD), and in the Library of Congress (Washington, DC). Elsewhere ( Jaarboek voor Nederlandse Boekgeschiedenis 26, 2019), Van Leerdam mentions one other copy, in the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library in Antwerp (Belgium). A few marginalia and other annotations in an old hand; some skilful repairs to a few margins; old, repaired tear in pp. 299-300, otherwise an excellent, clean copy. Leerdam, A. van (2011) Popularising and Personalising an Illustrated Herbal in Dutch in Nuncius. Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science, 26; Leerdam, A. van (2019) Talking heads. The visual rhetoric of recurring scholar woodcuts in a sixteenth-century handbook on chiromancy; Nissen BBI, 2292; Pritzel, 10834 (1514 ed. only). Not in Cat. BM(NH).

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