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Seeds of Knowledge: Early Modern Illustrated Herbals

Michael Jakob
432 pages
9.7 x 1.8 x 11.7 inches

A gorgeous compendium of printed herbals describing medicinal plants and their uses

With sumptuous reproductions, Seeds of Knowledge highlights the extraordinary collection of 15th- to 17th-century European printed herbals of the contemporary Liechtenstein collector Peter Goop. Herbals were highly illustrated books that included both the folkloric and medicinal uses of plants, and were critical texts for doctors and lay caregivers. 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 toward 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. Goop’s collection is one of the most extensive in private hands.

Using the Morgan’s 10th-century manuscript of Dioscurides’ De materia medica as a centerpiece, Seeds of Knowledge explores developments in the understanding of the healthful and healing properties of plants, as Europe moved away from medicinal folklore toward an increased understanding of the natural world.

Published on the occasion of an exhibition Seeds of Knowledge: Early Modern Illustrated Herbals at the Morgan Library & Museum from October 6, 2023 to January 14, 2024.