Dioscoridean herbals: comparisons of images provide a clue to their relationships

J. Janick
The un-illustrated Greek Herbal of Pedanius Dioscorides written in 65 and known as Materia Medica in Latin (On Medical Matters in English) has been the basis of herbal medicine for almost two millennia. Three illustrated recensions written in Greek include the Juliana Anicia Codex (JAC) completed in 512; the Codex Neapolitanus (NAP) completed about 600, and Morgan 652 (M652) written between 927 and 985. NAP appears to be an extended version of JAC. A comparison of 352 common images contained in JAC and NAP indicates that they are sister manuscripts from a common archetype but there is a possibility that some of the images of NAP were copied directly from JAC. M652 contains many illustrations that are similar (syntenic) to those of JAC and it has long been assumed that a large part of M652 was based on the JAC. NAP must also be a source in the creation of M652 since it contains several images that appear in NAP but not JAC, and when images are common in all three herbals 19% of the M652 images are closer to NAP than JAC. We conclude that M652 illustrations are derived d from both JAC and NAP. A data base of the three herbals is available on the Purdue University horticultural website.
Janick, J. (2016). Dioscoridean herbals: comparisons of images provide a clue to their relationships. Acta Hortic. 1125, 235-248
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1125.30
Dioscorides, Codex Neapolitanus, Greek herbals, Juliana Anicia Codex, Morgan 652, plant illustration, synteny

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