HERB - Standard floral depictions in illumination? -Reply

Norman White gn-white at tamu.edu
Fri Jan 8 06:16:09 PST 1999

Jin Liu Ch'ang here:

I was reading a post by Jadwiga Zajaczkowa who noted that there seems to be a lot of similarity of appearance between plant pictures in books.

It was noted:
>Further, he was musing about the construction of >these books. The ones we have are 'shop products', >that is, one ordered them from a shop of skilled 
>craftsmen. Lettering, illumination, gold leaf etc. were >each done by a different craftsman. Phil wondered if >anyone had ever done a study of how the ordering >business worked. Did one walk in and pick from a >kind of sample book, or make special requests? Was it >like picking options for your new car (I can get you a >package deal, gold leaf on the capitals AND on the >illuminations-- half price if you get both?)? If flowers >or whatever were used, did you get to pick the kinds?
There is some mention about plant use in illuminated manuscripts in a book by Richard G. Hatton entitled "Handbook of Plant and Floral Ornament from Early Herbals" published in 1960 by Dover Books (no ISBN, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-50719;  original published in 1909 under the title The Craftsman's Plant-Book) which studied the illustrations of herbals of the 16th and 17th Centuries.  The premise of this book is that the same woodcuts of the plant pictures were used in multiple herbal publications or were at least widely copied with almost no changes for over 100 years.  For instance, the illustrations in Gerard's Herbal (1636 edition) were originally prepared for Thaeodorus Tabernaemontanus, who published his "Neuw Kreuterbuch" at Frankfort in 1588.  Apparently this was the rule rather than the exception as he goes through many more examples before he publishes about 400 pages of copies of these illustrations.  The book by Hatton is a good source for herbal pictures and as far as I know a good reference for getting plant scientific names.

Norman White
a.k.a. Jin Liu Ch'ang
gn-white at tamu.edu


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