This folio, hand-colored woodcut engraving is from Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s I discorsi di m. Pietro Andrea Matthioli sanese & medico cesareo nelli sei libri di Pedacio Dioscoride Anazarbeo della materia medicinale. The work was published in Venetia (Venice) by Vincenzo Valgrisi in 1568. The hand-coloring appears to have been completed in 1719.
The work features some of earliest examples of botanical and natural history woodcuts. The process was called xylography and it is the oldest technique that created artistic engravings first occurring in the 14th century.
Pietro Andrea Mattioli studied medicine at Padua, but his main focus was Botanic studies. He is one of the most noted naturalists of all time, basically creating the encyclopedia of Renaissance phramacology with the work available here. He didn’t just draw the plants, but carefully examined and documented them with special attention to the science and medicinal properties.
He translated and commentated the work of Dioscorides (1st century AD) and greatly expanded upon it in I discorsi…, but also introduced many new plants for the first time. He integrated observations from other authors including Pliny, Theophrastus, Paul Egineta, and Matteo Selvatico.
The work is a true masterpiece. It was the classic text for teaching pharmacology for over two centuries. It included sections on aromas, ointments, oils, trees and animals.