During the Middle Ages and Renaissance books known as “herbals” were popular for their classifications of plants and descriptions of their medicinal and culinary uses. Even as summer’s greenery fades, plants remain verdant year-round on the illustrated pages. I recently had the chance to see some up close in “The Renaissance Herbal,” an exhibition at the New York Botanical Gardens’ Mertz Library, the largest botanical and horticultural library in the world. The exhibit is part of a larger program titled “Wild Medicine” about the many cultural uses of plants.
Before the advent of movable type in the 1400s, herbals were written as scrolls and manuscripts.
Herbals were second in popularity only to the Bible, but as modern medicine developed and synthetic drugs grew more common, these books became tomes of a bygone era. Still, their amazing artwork and handcrafted beauty make them highly sought after today.
“The Renaissance Herbal” is up at the New York Botanical Garden until September 8th. Here’s one stunning page (below) on view at the Mertz Library. Find more peeks here.