The World of Plants in Renaissance Tuscany: Medicine and Botany, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The World of Plants in Renaissance Tuscany

Medicine and Botany, 1st Edition

By Cristina Bellorini


280 pages

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Hardback: 9781472466228
pub: 2016-01-06
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In the sixteenth century medicinal plants, which until then had been the monopoly of apothecaries, became a major topic of investigation in the medical faculties of Italian universities, where they were observed, transplanted, and grown by learned physicians both in the wild and in the newly founded botanical gardens. Tuscany was one of the main European centres in this new field of inquiry, thanks largely to the Medici Grand Dukes, who patronised and sustained research and teaching, whilst also taking a significant personal interest in plants and medicine. This is the first major reconstruction of this new world of plants in sixteenth-century Tuscany. Focusing primarily on the medical use of plants, this book also shows how plants, while maintaining their importance in therapy, began to be considered and studied for themselves, and how this new understanding prepared the groundwork for the science of botany. More broadly this study explores how the New World's flora impacted on existing botanical knowledge and how this led to the first attempts at taxonomy.

Table of Contents




List of Illustrations

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations



Chapter 1

Plants and Medicine at the Court of Cosimo,

Francesco, and Ferdinando de’ Medici


The Construction of a Cultural Identity

The Importance of the Name Medici:

Cosmas and Damian


The Grand Dukes’ Commitment to Medicine

The Fonderie

Plants and Gardens



Chapter 2

Medical Botany at the Re-founded University of Pisa

Cosimo I’s Cultural Project and the University

Luca Ghini and the New Teaching of materia medica

Ghini’s Placiti and Lectures

Andrea Cesalpino

Cesalpino’s Herbarium (1563): A First Attempt

at Plant Classification


Cesalpino’s De plantis



Chapter 3

New Ways of Studying Plants


Gardens of Simples


Field Trips

Botanical Illustration

Cosimo’s Scrittoio

Brunfels and Fuchs

The Debate on Images

Iacopo Ligozzi



Chapter 4

Plants from the New World


The New plants

Florence and Discovery

American Plants in the Nuovo ricettario fiorentino

Luca Ghini on the French Disease

Gabriele Falloppio’s Tractatus de morbo gallico

New plants in Mattioli’s Discorsi

Nicolas Monardes’s Historia Medicinal

American Plants in Cesalpino’s De Plantis



Chapter 5

The Nuovo ricettario fiorentino

and the Understanding of Therapy


The First Edition of the Nuovo ricettario fiorentino

The Evolution of the Ricettario

The Penetration of Paracelsus’s Theories into Tuscany

Plants and Chemistry: Distillation

Plants and Therapy in Paracelsus’s Herbarius

The Doctrine of Signatures



Chapter 6

Theory and Practice

Medical Practice in the Faculty of Medicine

Three Texts of Mercuriale on Quartan Fever

Some Cases of Fever in the Medici Family

Cosimo I’s Illness in 1572

The Account Books of the Speziale al Giglio








About the Author

Cristina Bellorini received her PhD from the History Department at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her current research project is a study of sixteenth-century agrarian and horticultural history in Italy, based on archival sources in Florence and Milan.

About the Series

The History of Medicine in Context

An interest in medicine is one of the constants that re-occurs throughout history. From the earliest times, man has sought ways to combat the myriad of diseases and ailments that afflict the human body, resulting in a number of evolving and often competing philosophies and practices whose repercussions spread far beyond the strictly medical sphere.

For more than a decade The History of Medicine in Context series has provided a unique platform for the publication of research pertaining to the study of medicine from broad social, cultural, political, religious and intellectual perspectives. Offering cutting-edge scholarship on a range of medical subjects that cross chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries, the series consistently challenges received views about medical history and shows how medicine has had a much more pronounced effect on western society than is often acknowledged. As medical knowledge progresses, throwing up new challenges and moral dilemmas, The History of Medicine in Context series offers the opportunity to evaluate the shifting role and practice of medicine from the long perspective, not only providing a better understanding of the past, but often an intriguing perspective on the present.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 17th Century
MEDICAL / History