Herbals, Syracuse University Library, Rare books, Medicinal plants
Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences
Claus Nissen, in his book, Herbals of Five Centuries, 1958, defines a herbal as a book on medicinal plants which describes their appearance, gathering and preparation, contains notes concerning their preservation and storage, and finally provides the inclusion of data about their indication and dosage. The word "herb" was first used around 1500 to differentiate a plant with medicinal properties from an ordinary plant. Actually, manuscripts surviving from remote antiquity indicate a knowledge of this subject. With the advent of printing and advances in wood and metal engraving, the herbal became the indispensable reference book for physicians, apothecaries and the ordinary layman. Books of this ty'pe were so frequently used that few of the early editions have survived. Their popularity, however, has never waned and reprints, some even in paperback, are still appearing.
Syracuse University is fortunate in having several of these early herbals in both the Mayfield Library and the Rare Book Department of the George Arents Research Library. Ranging in size from sextodecimo (16mo) to small elephant folio, they are masterpieces of binding, superb in illustration and remarkable in description.
Peacher, William G. M.D., "Herbals : The Vade Mecum of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" (1972). The Courier. Paper 15.