The Herbal of Trento, also known as Erbario di Trento, was crafted in Venice in the late fifteenth century, and probably bound between 1562 and 1564; at the time, it was in the possession of don Vincenzo Sabbia, priest of Lodi. Today, the manuscript is treasured at the Trento Buonconsiglio Castle, in northern Italy.
A Fascinating Blend of Science and Art
The codex, an illustrated herbarium, is an excerpt of the Thesaurus Pauperum written by Peter Juliani (Pope John XXI) in the thirteenth century, and it combines scientific aims and artistic refinement. While offering an interesting insight into the life of its time, the manuscript was also a useful tool for ancient botanists and physicians. Indeed, its content offers suggestions on how to employ medicinal plants and herbs to recover from various diseases.
The Power of Medicinal Plants
The first 43 double pages contain the drawings of 86 different medicinal plants (in pen and watercolor, recalling a Middle-Ages style) with the description of their properties and of the places where they grow. The other 23 double pages feature recipes taken from the book Thesaurus Pauperum, divided into 86 two-column chapters.
The Herbal also features 84 captions, of which 21 are written in a gross Latin language, with syntactical and grammatical mistakes, and evident influences in Venetian dialect.
Testimony to a Distant World
Thanks to this magnificent codex, today we can dive into a distant world that has partly disappeared (some plants mentioned in the Herbarium do not exist anymore), partly never existed (the book also describes fantastic plants and animals), and partly is still employed today in alternative medicine. At the same time, we can admire the beautiful illustrations of common plants in watercolor, and read with curiosity strange magical formulas, references to the Cabala, evangelic quotations, and prayers.
The manuscript was probably bound in Lodi between 1562 and 1564.