N° 469
The Misfortune of Philippus de Lignamine’s Herbal or New Research Perspectives in Herbal Illustrations From an Iconological Point of View

The essay focuses on of the very first incunabulum herbal, printed in Rome by Philippus de Lignamine in 1482/83. It takes this incunabulum as a starting point for further reflections on the status of plant illustrations and their naturalism in herbals of the 15th and 16th centuries. Philippus’ intention was to edit a herbal of the so-called Pseudo-Apuleius tradition. For this, he used the schematized illustrations of a Pseudo-Apuleius manuscript he had previously discovered as patterns for the plant illustrations of his print. Philippus believed the manuscript to be a Roman antique herbal manuscript, but investigations by Hunger (1935) have shown that the manuscript was a ninth-century Pseudo-Apuleius copy. The essay asks for the reason of Philippus’ reuse of schematic plant pictures. It argues that at the end of the 15th century, the belief in the truthfulness of antique herbal texts was still as big as to stimulate Philippus to copy the presumed antique illustrations. There was an intense printing activity of treatises completely or partly dedicated to herbs during the last quarter of the 15th century, in Germany as well as in Italy. At the same time, however, herbal illustrations in manuscripts, during the last third of the 15th and the first third of the 16th century, were becoming far more naturalistic than prints and employed own means of picturing plants. The manuscripts also used pictorial patterns, but were more inventive in iconography during the first third of the 16th century, employing nature prints and dried plants, and therefore employed their own ways to convey knowledge on plants.