Structure of the sketchbook
Front endpaper - watercolour plant study, on a sheet from elsewhere in the album, pasted down, inscribed 'Fistularia minore:- I fior dei sole minor', numbered '38'
Page 1, recto - discourse on different recipes for making the colour yellow by mixing liquid gum arabic, egg whites, alunite and dried buckthorn berries, with samples of various shades of yellow beneath
Page 1, verso - inscription by Claudio Mannilli and decorative studies in pen, with a watercolour plant study on a separate sheet attached
Page 2, recto - Cibo's inscription and signature (see 'Details' for a transcription) and a black chalk decorative study
Page 2, verso - pen and black ink decorative studies
Page 3, recto - watercolour plant study, numbered '2'
Page 3, verso - pen and black ink decorative studies
Page 4, recto - watercolour plant study of Astragalus hamosus (European milkvetch), inscribed 'Sferra cavallo', numbered '9'
Page 4, verso - black chalk sketches of drapes
Page 5, recto - watercolour plant study of a form of Umbelliferae (Cow Parsley), inscribed 'Pane et caso:-', numbered '10'
Page 5, verso - faint decorative sketch in black chalk
Page 6, recto - watercolour plant study of Viola tricolor (Wild Pansy), inscribed 'Herba Jacea', numbered '12'
Page 6, verso - faint study of a drape in black chalk
Page 7, recto - watercolour plant study of a Ranunculus (Buttercup), inscribed 'Ranuncolo', numbered '15'
Page 7, verso - faint sketches in black chalk
Page 8, recto - watercolour plant study of Ranunculus montanus (Mountain buttercup), inscribed 'Ranuncolo montano', numbered '16'
Page 8, verso - faint sketches in black chalk
Page 9, recto - watercolour plant study, probably of a form of Sedum (Stonecrop), inscribed 'Semprevivo minore', numbered '24'
Page 9, verso - sketches and text in black chalk
Page 10, recto - watercolour plant study, probably of a form of Sedum (Stonecrop), inscribed 'Semprevivo minimo ulceratus[?]', numbered '25'
Page 10, verso - discourse on Scrophularia aquatica (Water figwort), particularly its abilities to cure scrofula, haemorrhoids and facial elephantitis, and to drive away earthworms
Page 11, recto - watercolour plant study of Scrophularia aquatica (Water figwort), inscribed 'Scrofolaria Aquatica' ['Castrangola Millemorbia' cancelled], numbered '27'
Page 11, verso - small sketch in pen and brown ink
Page 12, recto - watercolour plant study of Hippocrepis unisiliquosa (Horseshoe Vetch), inscribed 'Sferra cavallo', numbered '28'
Page 12, verso - blank
Page 13, recto - watercolour plant study, numbered '29'
Page 13, verso - faint sketches in black chalk
Page 14, recto - watercolour plant study of Leonurus cardiaca (Motherwort), inscribed 'Cardiaca minore Odorata', numbered '31'
Page 14, verso - faint studies in black chalk
Page 15, recto - watercolour plant study of a form of Phleum (Grass), numbered '32'
Page 15, verso - blank
Page 16, recto - watercolour plant study of Carex riparia (Sedge), numbered '34'
Page 16, verso - discourse on the appearance of Veronica chamaedrys (Germander Speedwell), which Cibo calls 'Herba di ogni mese', and its usefulness as a cure for haemorrhoids
Page 17, recto - watercolour plant study of Veronica chamaedrys (Germander Speedwell), inscribed 'Herba de ogni mese:- Hostio colon:-', numbered '35'
Page 17, verso - faint studies in black chalk
Page 18, recto - watercolour plant studies of Bellis annua (Daisy) [left] and Senecio vulgaris (Groundsel) [right], inscribed 'Alla Roccha Cotrata si chiami fora[?] sasso' and with discourse on the plant's habitat and uses, numbered '36'
Page 18, verso - faint sketches in black chalk
Page 19, recto - watercolour plant study of Trifolium ornithopodioides (Birdsfoot Fenugreek), inscribed 'Fien greco salvatico', inscribed '37'
Page 19, verso - discourse on 'Fistularia minore', its similarity to rosemary, its insipid taste and its flowering in May and June
Page 20, recto - watercolour plant study of Allium schoenoprasum (Chive), inscribed 'Aglio salvatico', numbered '40'
Page 20, verso - watercolour plant study of 'Martagon vero:-', copied from a drawing which had been sent to Cibo by Alfonso Ceccarelli, a doctor from Bevagna, and with discourse on the plant's taste and habitat
Page 21, recto - watercolour plant study of 'Olmella:', again based on a drawing sent by Alfonso Ceccarelli, with a list of places where it grows, numbered '41'
Page 21, verso - faint sketches in black chalk
Page 22, recto - watercolour plant study of 'Lemonia magiore', with discourse on its mountain habitat and appearance, numbered '42'
Page 22, verso - list of accounts
Back endpaper - watercolour plant study, probably of a variety of Sedum (Stonecrop), faintly inscribed 'Spette[?] ... minore', numbered '4'
Gherardo Cibo and Renaissance Botany
The scion of an aristocratic Genoese family, Gherardo Cibo became interested in botany through his studies in Bologna with Luca Ghini (1490-1556), the compiler of the first known herbarium and the founder of Europe's first botanical garden. In later life, Cibo pursued his passion in two ways: first, by hand-colouring the woodcuts in the botanical books he owned and elaborating them with exquisite landscape backgrounds; and, secondly, by making studies of plants himself. A particularly highly-finished example of his botanical drawing is in the British Library, London (Ms. Add. 22332, folio 72; J. Bolten, 'Review: Gherardo Cibo, alias Ulisse Severino da Cingoli. Disegni e opere da collezioni italiane', Master Drawings, XXVIII, no. 2, 1990, fig. 2).
Since antiquity botanists had relied for identifications on the Greek works of Dioscorides and Theophrastus, which had caused confusion as many of the plants they described could not be reconciled with species native to Europe. Cibo seems to have owned at least two copies of Italian translations of Dioscorides, in which he coloured the existing plates and added his own drawings to the margins (Gherardo Cibo, alias Ulisse Severino da Cingoli, exhib. cat., Comune di San Severino Marche, Centro Studi Salimbeni, 1989, nos. 16 and 18, fig. 16). The driving force behind Renaissance botany was the need to provide a guide to the plants that the botanists had available to them, and to record the medicinal properties of those plants. The present sketchbook, with its illustrations and discourses, shows that Cibo envisaged it as a herbal, with delicately-washed pen drawings standing in for the samples of dried plants which had been used by Luca Ghini in his 1544 herbarium. In seeking to record the properties and habitats of plants which he had studied from nature, Cibo therefore represents part of the vanguard of European botany, which would come to fruition in the following century with the great vernacular herbals by Nicholas Culpeper and John Gerard.