Herbarium of Trento

Alternate Titles:

Herbal of Trento, Erbario di Trento, Herbarium von Trento

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Alternate Titles

Herbal of Trento
Erbario di Trento
Herbarium von Trento

Extent / Format

132 pages / 29.2 x 20.8 cm

End of the 14th century
Artist / School

Author: Pietro Ispano


The first 43 double pages contain the drawings of 86 different medicinal plants

Former owners

Vincenzo Sabbia, priest of Lodi

Short description

A very special medical guidebook was composed in Venice at the end of the 14th century. It was a herbarium that is stored today in the palace library of the Italian city of Trento. The manuscript contains detailed statements concerning plant and animal world of the Middle Ages. Medicinal aspects of efficacious plants stand in the foreground. The depictions were created with graphically performed watercolor illustrations of high artistic quality.

Facsimile editions available


Herbarium of Trento

The palace library of Buonconsiglio in the Italian city of Trento is invested with some of the great book treasures in the entire world. A high-quality specimen of this book collection is represented by the Herbarium of Trento. The work was made in Venice at the end of the 15th century. The original specimen of the manuscript found itself in the possession of various important Italian personalities over the centuries. The medieval botanical textbook presents scientific facts in the highest artistic consummation. It is one of the most modern botanical handbooks from that time and today offers us a fantastic inside view into the medicine of the Middle Ages.

Illumination and Scientific Facts in the Highest Quality

The enchanting herbarium affords us a glimpse into times long-past and equally so into the fantasy of its author Pietro Ispano. A few of the plants described actually existed in the Middle Ages, but have gone extinct today. Other plants and animals simply originated from the author’s idea world. Even more plants are still in use today, e.g. in alternative medicine. The detailed descriptions and explanations were illustrated with high-quality watercolor paintings. The colorful pictures were frequently accompanied by magical formulas, prayers, and biblical text passages.

A Historical Testimony

The first 43 double pages of the manuscript show illustrations of 86 medicinal plants and clarifies where these are to be found. The subsequent 23 double-pages contain formulas and medicinal recipes from another of Pietro Ispano’s manuscripts, namely the Thesaurus Pauperum. The depictions are very colloquial and are largely recorded in the Venetian dialect. A few grammatical errors and strange syntax makes this fact apparent. As a result, the medical handbook maintains its own very individual charm. This work was not solely for use in schools and universities. It was also comprehensible for the laity, therefore one did not need to possess special qualifications in order to use the work. The manuscript is a fantastic contemporary witness to the everyday medicine and treatment of illnesses among the medieval population as a whole.

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