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Folio Society Published Works Number 1132

Collins, Minta [Commentary] - Tractatus de herbis British Library Egerton MS 747 Limited Edition

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Collins, Minta [Commentary] - Tractatus de herbis British Library Egerton MS 747 Limited Edition (Published in by The Folio Society in 2002. Clamshell slipcase. Facsimile edition. 109 leaves full decorative goat skin with raised bands, all edges gilded, with introductory booklet in custom made clamshell box. From a limited edition of 1000. Tractatus de herbis originally formed part of a collection of pharmacological texts written in southern England about 1300. The Tractatus contains a vast amount of knowledge and information about plants, their virtues and medicinal uses, that is directly descended from the Greek, Roman and Arabic herbal tradition. The Tractatus now rests within the British Library, catalogued as British Library, Egerton MS 747. It is one of the most celebrated medieval herbals because, for the first time in centuries, the scribe who produced it actually drew the plants from living examples, rather than reproducing the often flat and unlife-like illustrations of the Greeks and Arabics. For the first time in many centuries, the illustrations contained within the Tractatus were helpful, rather than misleading. Over five hundred entries fill the Tractatus, most of which relate to plants, but some fifty relate to animal and mineral substances. The information given about each plant follows tradition: an illustration, its place of origin, the distinguishing properties of the plant, when to gather and how to prepare the plant, its virtues and healing properties, and the form in which it could be used to treat various ailments (there might be up to forty or fifty such items for a single herb). For instance, the information given on the rose stated where it might be found, and how and when it could be gathered (preferably when the petals were open and red, and under no circumstance whatever should petals be gathered when they were colourless or blackened). If they were then dried properly in the sun they could be kept for three years. It was always dried roses used in medicinal preparations, as they were so easily ground into a powder. Roots, leaves and seeds were the most commonly used parts of a plant, the bark and flowers being used less often. Generally herbs were used dried and powdered, and they might be prescribed to be mixed with water or wine, or as a syrup (mixed with sugar, honey, wine, rosewater or vinegar). Powders could also be made into pills or suppositories by being mixed with animal fats or honey, or they might be applied as poultices in a looser concoction. Crushed and/or dried herbs could also be placed into linen sachets and wrapped about the painful area, or even ingested by being baked into cakes or tarts. )

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