24 June 2009
MACER FLORIDUS (or AEMILIUS), [pseud., ODO OF MEUNG?]. De viribus herbarum carmen. Milan: Antonius Zarotus, 19 November 1482.
4o (190 x 136 mm). Collation: a-f8 g4. 52 leaves. 24 lines. Several initials supplied in early manuscript (some occasional minor bleeding of color). (Some spotting and occasional soiling.) Early flexible vellum. Provenance: one-page manuscript index in an early hand at beginning.
Second edition OF THE FIRST PRINTED HERBAL. EXCEEDINGLY RARE: THIS IS THE EARLIEST EDITION TO APPEAR AT AUCTION IN AT LEAST 50 YEARS, according to American Book Prices Current. The first edition of this work was published in Naples in 1477 by Arnoldus de Bruxella. No copies of either the first edition or second have appeared at auction in at least the last 50 years, and only two other copies of this second edition are recorded in the United States: New York Public Library and Cushing Library of Yale Medical School.
Macer's herbal was probably written sometime in the 10th or 11th century. The work is usually attributed to Odo, Bishop of Meung as his name appears on the 12th- century manuscript located in Dresden. Although other attributions have been made, "Odo of Meung, however is most often named, probably more as a bibliographic convenience than anything else" (Anderson).
De viribus herbarum carmen is a poem written in Latin hexameters. The verses discuss the medicinal and dietetic properties of 77 herbs. Pliny, Galen, Dioscorides and Strabo, among others, are cited as sources. "With the possible exception of the 'Herbarium' of Pseudo-Apuleius, probably the best known single and distinct treatment of herbs produced during the Middle Ages was the poem 'De viribus herbarum' which circulated under the name Macer Floridus" (Thorndike). Its popularity and longevity has often been ascribed to Macer's use of verse, which allowed doctors, apothecaries and others ease in memorizing prescriptions and recipes.
This second edition contains the same revisions of the text that were employed in the first edition of 1477. The first illustrated edition seems to be a Geneva edition ca. 1500 (Goff's "Gensus", M-3), with a large title woodcut of a physician writing in his library (repeated on verso) and 66 woodcuts of flowers and herbs. Klebs cites another Geneva edition as earlier with the same repeated title cut and 62 woodcuts of plants 'in spite of Fairfax Murray's explicit statement that the woodcuts of Klebs 637.I are in a later state.' (Kraus) Anderson mentions in error the first illustrated edition as 1482 (p. 35). Not in BMC. Goff M-2; Hunt 3 (1477 1st ed.); Klebs, "Incunabula scientifica et medica" 636.2; Pritzel 5711; Thorndike, "History" Vol. I. pp.612-15.
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