Joseph Wood Krutch : Herbal


The cover may not look so inviting but inside this book are lovely woodcut reproductions from the 16th century.  I found this book in the Science stacks while examining some reference books for display. This book, by naturalist Joesph Wood Krutch looks at theories and discoveries of Herbalists from ancient times to present day. 100 plants and 6 creatures are detailed within.


Herbalists were the fathers of medicine, pharmacology and horticulture and herein lies their many beliefs in text and illustration. Beautifully detailed are lettuce, mistletoe, juniper, nasturtiums, oats, and nutmeg along with many other plants. Included are illustrations of animals these herbalists felt could be used in treatment of disease. Herein lies a beautiful book.


“The illustrations in this book are taken from the woodcuts in Pierandrea Mattioli’s huge folio volume, Commentaries on the Six Books of Dioscorides, issued in Prague in 1563 and Venice in 1565.  The work was first published in 1544 and appeared in some fifty editions in several languages, but all of those prior to 1563 had very much smaller plates.


It is not known who made all of these monumental drawings and cut them in wood but most of them are generally attributed to Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyerpeck. However, on the Orange plate (page 113) the initials WS appear in the lower left corner, indicating that at least one other craftsman was involved.  In any case, these are certainly among the finest Herbal illustrations ever printed and are obviously, for the most part, based upon observation rather than being copies of copies, as was so often the practice up to that time.”

You can view this book in the Science Division. It is a reference book and must be used in the library.

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