Book of Herbs


Johannes Hartlieb’s Kräuterbuch (Book of herbs) of 1462 is basically an extract from Konrad von Megenberg’s Buch der Natur (Book of nature) written a century earlier, which was the first natural history in the German language. Hartlieb’s subject is plants, mostly herbs, and their medical uses. What makes the Kräuterbuch special is the side-by-side presentation of text and images. The high cost of such a richly decorated book makes it unlikely that it was actually used by doctors or pharmacists of the time. The botanical imprecision of the 160 pictures, in any case, would have made identification of particular plants in nature difficult. The book also has ten additional images of animals, which are not relevant to the subject of plants and medicine. These factors suggest that the book was created for representational purposes. Hartlieb (circa 1410–68) was the long-time personal physician of Duke Albrecht III of Bavaria.

Last updated: January 8, 2018