Bury St. Edmunds Herbal
Bury St. Edmunds Herbal,
dating to about 1100 CE,
includes partial texts of the herbals of Pseudo-Apuleius and
Dioscorides, and a shortened version of the
Virtutibus Bestiarum in Arte Medicinae (On the Virtues of Animals in the
Art of Medicine), which is attributed to Sextus Placidus. The text
is written in Latin; plant names are provided in many languages,
including Old English.
wonderful illustrations of plants are what make this manuscript,
MS Bodley 130
and it is highly unusual in that the drawings were completed and then
the text was added. Charles Singer speculates that the artist who created this
herbal, in the scriptorium of the Benedictine abbey at Bury St. Edmunds,
...had before him a herbal of the usual Apuleius-Dioscorides type. He
began by identifying the plants in his MS with the plants in the
monastery garden. These he painted. Thus, for "Viperiana" he adopted the
milk thistle, Carduus marianus... now a weed of escape in
Britain. Similarly, for the "Camedrium" of the ancient herbals he
took Teucrium chamaedrys... which, though now established in
parts of [Britain], is unquestionably a garden escape...
"The Herbal in Antiquity," J
Hellenic Studies 47, 1927
the Lacnunga and the Leechbook of Bald, this book was written for use by experienced physicians. But unlike the Leechbook
or the Lacnunga, it was also intended for use as a field guide to medicinal plants. Each page
includes an illustration of a medicinal plant (and sometimes two), along with its various names -- then as now, plant identification could be
habitat follows, and then very concise
prescriptions for the use of the plant in treating specific conditions.
example, below is a translation of the page that
deals with the mersmalve, or marshmallow, today's
officinalis. The confection we call
marshmallows was originally made with the sap of this plant, and was a soothing remedy for sore throats, among other things.