Botany and Materia Medica
Botanical Gardens of the Medici
In 1543–1544 Cosimo I founded the botanical garden at the University of Pisa. Such gardens taught medical students the medical benefits (and dangers) of particular plants. Shortly thereafter Cosimo I founded a companion garden in Florence, known as the Botanical Garden of San Marco, for students to use while away from Pisa for holidays. Botanists such as Paolo Boccone, head of the botanical garden in Florence, brought both live specimens and seeds from around the world to enrich the gardens under their direction.
Pier Antonio Micheli.
Catalogus plantarum horti caesarei florentini.
Florence: Bernardi Paperinii, 1748.
Micheli (1679–1737) served as prefect of the garden; this work, along with Micheli's successor's history of the garden, appeared posthumously. This book also figures in Gardens of Knowledge: An Exhibit of Books About Botanical Gardens, as installed in Special Collections in 2000 and subsequently converted to an online exhibit.
Another engraving depicts a very elegant calla lily.
Michel Angelo Tilli.
Catalogus plantarum horti Pisani.
Florence: Typis Regiae Celsitundinis. Apud Tartinium & Franchium, 1723.
Tilli headed the botanical garden in Pisa from 1685 until his death in 1740. In addition to detailed foldout engravings of the garden's layout, the volume also contains an alphabetical catalog, and illustrations, of the plants it contained. See Gardens of Knowledge for books about other "academic gardens."
Opusculi varii. Manuscript volume.
Though beyond the chronological boundaries of this exhibit, the drawings of the Italian botanist Luigi Castiglioni (1757-1832) nonetheless illustrate the precautions necessary in transporting and cultivating seeds and plants from afar. Castiglioni, now credited with pioneering work in plant geography and introduction, visited the new American nation in 1785-1787 and recorded his observations in a 2-volume work, Viaggio negli Stati Uniti dell’ America Settentrionale, fatto negli anni, 1785, 1786, e 1787 (Milano: Stamperia di G. Marelli, 1790) available in the Rare Book Collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. An English translation of Castiglioni's Viaggio was published by Syracuse University Press in 1983.
Icones & descriptiones rariorum plantarum Siciliae, Melitae, Galliae, & Italiae.
Oxford: E theatro Sheldoniano, 1674.
This volume was edited by Robert Morison (1620-1683). Another work by Boccone (1633-1704), Museo di fisica e di esperienze: Variato, e decorato di osservazioni naturali, note medicinali, e ragionamenti secondo i principii de' moderni (Venice: I.B. Zuccato, 1697) speaks to the formation of the grand duchy.
Pharmacopeias: Collecting to Cure
The Medici grand dukes appreciated both the study of nature for its own sake and the practical benefits of botanical knowledge, particularly during outbreaks of plague. The plants they had brought into the botanical gardens in Florence and Pisa figured prominently in preparations to prevent and cure diseases that afflicted the people of Florence; those official “recipes” for such remedies, many of which incorporate exotic plants collected for the Medici from around the world, also appeared in print.
Ricettario fiorentine di nuovo illustrato.
Florence: Pietro Cecconcelli, 1623.
Note in the publisher's device the embellishment of the Medicean coat of arms, with its six balls or palle, with the moons of Jupiter, called the Medicean stars by Galileo. The Medicean stars were also incorporated into the decoration at the head of a chapter. The colophon identified Pietro Cecconcelli as doing business at the sign of the Medicean stars - alle stelle medicee - in Florence. The watermark on the paper used in the edition also bears the Medici emblem; the frontispiece includes other symbols of Medici power.
Growing Interest in Materia Medica
The works of Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1500–1577) shown here highlight ways in which the grand dukes’ interests affected the study of natural history. We know that Cosimo I studied closely Mattioli’s translation of the ancient treatise on medicinal plants by the Greek physician Dioscorides Pedanius of Anazarbos (ca. 40–90 AD). So too did readers of the copy shown here, judging from the many annotations in this first edition of Mattioli’s translation.
The success of the first -- and unillustrated -- edition showed Mattioli he had a ready market for an expanded and illustrated version. In its preparation Mattioli sought more information from prominent plant collectors throughout Europe. Luca Ghini, first director of the botanical garden in Pisa (founded by Cosimo I), responded with lengthy descriptions, including an account of balsam, then a key ingredient in many remedies. The information Ghini provided to Mattioli then traversed Europe through translations and subsequent editions of Mattioli's text. Mattioli repaid the interest and support of the Medici by dedicating one of the later editions of his text to the daughter of the archduke of Austria, Giovanna de' Medici, who had married Francesco I.
Pietro Andrea Mattioli.
Di pedacio Dioscoride Anazabeo libri cinque della historia &
Venice: Nicolo de Bascarini, 1544.
Commentarii in libros sex Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei, de materia medica.
Venice: In officina Erasmiana, apud Vincentium Valgrisium, 1554.
Di pedacio Dioscoride Anazabeo della materia Medicinale.
Venice: Apresso gli Heredi di Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1581.
Note the dedication.
________; Joachim Camerius.
Kreutterbuch dess hochgelehrten unnd weitberühmten Herrn D. Petri Andreae Matthioli, jetzt widerumb mit viel schönen neuwen Figuren, auch nützlichen Artzeneyen, und andern guten Stücken, zum anderen Mal auss sonderm Fleiss gemehrt.
Frankfurt am Main: [Gedruckt bey Johan Feyrabendt in Verlegung Peter Fuchers und Heinrich Dacken Erben], 1590.
New Kreüterbuch ... erstlich in latein gestellt.
Prague: Durch Georgen Melantrich von Auentin [Aventin]..., 1563.
Les commentaires … sur les six livres de … Dioscoride.
PLyon: Jean-Baptiste de Ville, 1680.