OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Print materials that focus on plants, and particularly on their medical uses, are called herbals.

Dioscurides Neapolitanus,image from Wikimedia CommonsSome very early herbal manuscripts have survived the ages; among them the works of Aristotle, Crateuas, Hlippocrates, Pliny the Elder, Pseudo-Apuleius Platonicus, and Theophrastes. A timeline of early authors and their materials can be found in this "Garden Source Timeline."

Perhaps the best known of the early herbals is the work of Greek military physician Dioscorides, who compiled his Materia Medica between 40-90 CE. The Materia Medic was relied upon by the physicians of western Europe for more than a thousand years. At left is a page from the Naples Dioscorides, created in the 6th century CE .

Herbals often served as field guides that provided pictures of the plants whose uses they outlined, and illustrated by artists with varying levels of skill. A list of early medieval herbal manuscripts can be found at Manuscript Sources:  Medieval Plants.

Anglo-Saxon Britain was among the first nations to produce herbals in its own language, rather than in Latin or Greek; two such vernacular herbals are the Lacnunga and the Leechbook of Bald. Classical herbals were also copied, such as the Herbarium of Pseudo-Apuleius found in the Bury St. Edmunds Herbal.



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F.D. Drewitt


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