Aus dem Reiche der Drogen, Dr. E. Gilg, Dr. P. N. Schürhoff, Schwarzeck-Verlag, dresden, 1926
This book caught my attention at a local antiquarian bookshop. It is from 1926, published by Schwarzeck-Verlag Dresden. It contains information and references to herbals from the 15th century, which – thanks to the invention of letterpress printing – were for the first time available to a larger audience, especially since they were written not in Latin but in German language, so that common people could understand and use them. These herbals were richly illustrated with surprisingly accurate woodcuts depicting the plants. Both pharmacology and botany developed quickly during this time. Soon followed similar herbals in Belgium, Italy and England.
The first chapter gives an introduction to these early herbals, their authors and illustrators. Mentioned are among others: Conrad von Megenberg, Otto Brunfels (botanist and illustrator), Leonhart Fuchs, Hieronymus Bock, Petrus Andreas Mathiolus, Konrad Gesner, Tabernaemontanus. Publishing a book was not an easy endeavor at a time, when there were no laws yet on coyprights. Unauthorized reprints occurred within the same year as the original and neither the original publisher nor author could do anything about it. (Sounds familiar in times of the internet, doesn’t it?) In addition, there was fierce competition among publishers and prices were dumped, once a larger number of a similar book was available… The authors describe all of this quite vividly and so this short discourse, on the first herbals ever printed, is a pleasant read, spiced with examples and quotes. Simultaneously we learn how the first volumes on botany and pharmacognosy came into being.
There are altogether 272 pages. Whenever I skim through, I find something new and interesting, which I have not read elsewhere. This book contains plenty of interdisciplinary references and I am glad to have bought it.