Historia Plantarum

Ms. 459 - Biblioteca Casanatense (Rome, Italy)

Alternate Titles:

Medizinische Enzyklopädie Kaiser Wenzels, Tacuinum sanitatis

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Medizinische Enzyklopädie Kaiser Wenzels
Tacuinum sanitatis

Extent / Format

590 pages / 46.0 x 32.0 cm

End of the 14th century

Gian Galeazzo Visconti


More than 500 illustrations of plants and 80 illustration of animals

Former owners

Wenceslas IV, the King of Bohemia and Germany

Short description

The Historia Plantarum codex arose at the end of the 14th century at the court of Gian Galeazzo in Milan. It is a medical encyclopedia that explains floral, faunal, and mineral compounds. The work is adorned with numerous botanical depictions, such as miniatures of animals and common articles of daily use.

Facsimile editions available


Historia Plantarum

In the 11th century, the doctor Ibn Butlan composed the medical work Taqwim es-sihha. The Latin book series Tacuinum Sanitatis was based on the foundation of this work. Included among them are exquisite illuminated codices, which are found today in Vienna, Rome, London, and Paris. Rome’s Historia Plantarum, a work from this series, represents an exhaustive encyclopedia of the natural sciences with descriptions of plants, minerals, and animals. Special interest was shown to the specific medicinal and therapeutic effects of floral and faunal substances. The codex contains more than 500 beautiful and illustrative depictions of plans and over 80 depictions of animals.

Medicine in the Middle Ages

The Historia Plantarum is an interesting and historically significant source about medicine and also about the everyday life of the Middle Ages. According to medieval doctors, various elements were needed for a healthy lifestyle: proper diet, exercise and enough sleep, and a balanced emotional state. A life in harmony with nature was recommended. This guaranteed people health and well-being. The illuminated manuscript is illustrated with over five hundred illustrations of plants in alphabetical order. The depictions convey an astoundingly detailed and imposing overview of the thorough knowledge about plant life, which one possessed in late medieval Italy. In addition to these botanical pictures come more than eighty illustrations of animals, from which one obtained healing remedies, as well as over 30 depictions of mineral derivatives.

Prominent Previous Owners

The manuscript was made at the end of the 14th century at the court of Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The ruler was the most powerful and glorious scion of the great Visconti family and created during his reign one of the most impressive collections of unbelievably valuable book treasures. Gian Galeazzo presented the splendid Historia Plantarum to Wenzel IV, King of Bohemia and Germany, with whom he forged a good political relationship. Today the medical encyclopedia is found in the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome.

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