Fifteenth century magico-medicinal minerals

Chris Duffin (UK) The Hortus Sanitatis (1491) On 23 June 1491, a new volume was printed and bound for distribution in the German University town of Mainz. The publisher was Jacob von Meydenbach, who might also have been responsible for compiling many of the entries in the book. The volume was based partly on an earlier work entitled Gart der Gesundheit, which was also published in Mainz, but this time by Peter Schöffer, an apprentice of Johannes Gutenberg. This famous pioneer revolutionised mass product printing in the 1450s by developing the use of movable type. Schöffer continued to innovate in this medium after Gutenberg’s death in 1468, experimenting with page sizes, numbers of lines to a column, the arrangement of text blocks and font styles, and the use of woodcuts as illustrations. His Gart der Gesundheit, published in 1483, only a few decades after the inception of the printing revolution, was an immediate success. Meydenbach’s Hortus Sanitatis was prepared as a sort of sequel to the Gart; more ambitious in scope, it was rather longer with additional entries and, importantly for us, a section on stones (Fig. 1). Fig. 1. A double page spread from the De Lapidibus section of Hortus Sanitatis (1491). Wellcome Collection, London.Gart der Gesundheit (German) and Hortus Sanitatis (Latin) both translate as The Garden of Health, giving an indication of the thrust of the volume – here was a treatise on the medicinal virtues of materials from the natural world. The section on stones (De Lapidibus), … Read More

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