Seeds of Knowledge: Early Modern Illustrated Herbals

October 6, 2023 through January 14, 2024
Open book with botanical illustrations showing green leaves, and orange and pink flowers.

Seeds of Knowledge highlights the collection of 15th to 17th-century European printed herbals of Dr. Peter Goop (Liechtenstein). Herbals were highly illustrated, critical texts to doctors and lay healthcare providers that included both the folkloric and medicinal uses of plants. The text and illustrations were repeatedly refined as the medicinal benefits of a plant’s use were more clearly understood and the style of illustration tended towards higher degrees of naturalism. These books were working manuals and frequently annotated by readers with notes of herbal recipes/medicines or other uses not found in the printed text. Dr. Goop’s collection is one of the most extensive in private hands. Using the Morgan’s 10th-century manuscript of Dioscurides’ De materia medica (MS M.652) as a centerpiece, this Thaw Gallery exhibition will explore developments in the understanding of the healthful and healing properties of plants, as Europe moved away from medicinal folklore towards an increased understanding of the natural world.

Basil Besler (German, 1561–1629). Hortus Eystettensis (Garden of Eichstätt). Altdorf (Eichstätt): Konrad Bauer, 1613. Peter Goop Collection; photo: Naomi Wenger.