Q. Define the Herbals?
During the Middle Ages, following the decline of the Greek and Roman civilisations, little significant botanical progress was made. The early herbals (i.e., old books about plants), such as the Codex of Dioscorides, were copied and recopied for centuries with only few additions or improvements. In the first half of the sixteenth century, however, a botanical renaissance developed, and it was greatly stimulated by the still young art of printing.
The herbals of Brunfels, Bock, Fuchs, Cordus, and others, sometimes referred to as the 'German Fathers of Botany', are representative of this period.
Between the years 1530 and 1536 Otto Brunfelsius (Brunfels) (1463-1534) published his 'Herbal' which consisted of descriptions of a large number of plants, many illustrated by woodcuts. It was the beginning of modern taxonomy. This was soon followed by Leonardus Fuch's 'De Historia Striplum' (1542) and Hieronymus Dock's 'Kreuter Buch' (1539). Fuchs was primarily a medical botanist. His idea of the flower in general is similar to that given by Theophrastus. He distinguished two kinds of flowers, the leafy and the capillary, but regarded both as being united in flowers like the rose. He arranged 'the plants in De Historia Striplum alphabetically by their Greek names, hence we find no attempt at classification made by him. Inspite of these limitations, the Historia which he produced commands admiration.
William Turner (1515-1568), whose 'A New Herbal' printed in English apeared in 1551 (first part), 1562 (second part) and 1568 (third part), is often called 'Father of English Botany'. He also arranged plants alphabetically since no thought was then given to plant relationships. Tuner gave to many plants, English names they bear, with an apparently inborn zeal for reformation he swept out many of the old superstitions about plants.
The Herbal of Valerius Cordus published posthumously in 1561; contained not only medicinal plants found in Germany and Italy, but also many foreign wdods, barks 14 and fruits, acquired from other countries. His descriptions of plants were more accurate than those of any of his contemporaries.-He was the first to draw botanical descriptions in a systematic form, including details about the type of plants, form of parts, colour, odour, taste etc.
The influence of gardening on the development of botany may be seen in the work of John Gerard (1545-1612). Gerard published an account in 1696 which contained over 1033 species of the plants growing in his garden. He published his greatest work 'The Herbal' or 'General Historia of Plants' in 1597 illustrated with over 1800 wood-cuts of plants. The plants he described were arranged in three books, the first included grasses, second all herbs for medicine and sweet smelling, the third one dealt with bushes, fruit-bearing plants, resins, and mushrooms. The result of this was a rough classification, based on superficial resemblances and upon the relationship of plant with man.