Plant portraits

The illustrations in medieval herbals are beautiful and mysterious. But if you know how to read them, they also convey a wealth of knowledge about the plants they portray.

From WelcomeCollection.com

The illustrated herbal has an almost unbroken line of descent from the ancient Greeks to the Middle Ages. The tradition owes much to a work by the Greek physician Dioscorides called ‘De Materia Medica’ (50–70 CE), which describes around 1,000 medicines, largely derived from plants, along with some animals and mineral substances.

‘De Materia Medica’ was circulated throughout the European and Islamic worlds. During that time it was translated, embellished and added to in commentaries and copies for local use. In Europe, this tradition developed into the medieval herbal, created in monasteries, usually by …