(Venetia: Presso Gian Giacomo Hertz, 1684). 335 x 230 mm. (13 1/4 x 9 1/4"). 6 p.l., 480 pp,  leaves.
Original parchment over boards, inked title on spine. In a custom-made gilt-titled folding cloth box. Large and attractive woodcut device on title, decorative headpieces, tailpieces, and initials, and NEARLY 1,000 WOODCUTS OF PLANTS in text. Title printed in red and black. Spine and joints wormed and slightly torn above top and below bottom cord, boards a little splayed, a few other small tears and slight soil, but a sound and not unsatisfying contemporary binding. Minor worming in upper margin of first few gatherings, one signature somewhat browned, a little browning elsewhere, two leaves torn in lower blank margin, but generally excellent internally, with text usually clean and fresh.
Published in 1585 at the direction of Pope Sixtus V and authored by his personal physician, this popular Italian herbal describes the properties and uses of medicinal herbs from Europe, the West Indies, and Asia, and it provides us with very detailed and often whimsical woodcut illustrations of salubrious plants. The present copy is from one of only a few early editions and is uncommon, as well as being unusually well preserved. In addition to being a botanist and a doctor, Castore Durante (ca. 1529-90) was a poet, and he wrote the Latin verses that appear as part of many descriptions. In the entry for the arbor tristis, for example, Durante compares the "melancholy tree" to a nymph, and the fanciful woodcut depicts a tree whose trunk is the body of a woman and whose limbs--with carefully detailed, oversized leaves--are her arms stretching up to the moon and stars above. Many of the woodcuts include a tiny human or animal, either tending or eating the plant, and almost all of them are charming. These small but delightful and imaginative compositions are the work of Leonardo Parasole, an Italian engraver and woodcutter, who took the name of his better-known wife, engraver and designer Isabella Parasole (sometimes mistakenly credited for the work here). Durante, whose position as the doctor of the pope no doubt contributed to his authority and to the market for his works, wrote other family medical guides on hygiene and nutrition. (CDT1715)
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PJP Catalog: ELIST 7.006