materials that focus on plants, and particularly on their medical
uses, are called herbals.
Some 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
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
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
Pseudo-Apuleius found in the
Bury St. Edmunds Herbal.