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The Great Herbal of Leonhart Fuchs: De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignes, 1542

The Great Herbal of Leonhart Fuchs
Leonhart Fuchs
Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, two volumes, slipcased, 1,864 p., $249.50

Leonhart Fuchs was one of the most important naturalists in the Renaissance, and his herbal was one of the most scientific works of his time. One of the few individuals able to turn down Duke Cosimo de Medici (at the recommendation of Vesalius, the Duke in 1548 had hoped to bring Fuchs to Pisa to organize a botanical garden), Fuchs' career as court physician and professor of medicine gave him plenty of opportunities to understand the medicinal and other diverse properties of many European plants. HisHerbal is both a summary of his knowledge and a review of the state of botanical information in the Renaissance.

This two-volume set is not a mere reproduction of the Herbal but a historical and scientific analysis of its significance in the Renaissance and for all time. Some 400 plants native to Germany are featured, plus exotic introductions such as pumpkin and corn from America. The facsimile is based on a hand-colored copy in the Hunt Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University. The commentary in a volume separate from the facsimile treats the history of herbals before Fuchs, provides a biography of Fuchs and also offers an analysis of the creation of the Herbal. In addition, the woodcuts are examined in detail, with summaries of all of the plants featured in Fuchs' great work. For any library focusing on the history of science, the Renaissance or herbals, this work will be a fundamental component of the collections. It is simply breathtaking.

— Edward J. Valauskas, Manager, Library and Plant Information, School of the Chicago Botanic Garden.