Tractado de las Drogas...Indias Orientales...,
con sus plantas debuxadas al bivo
Burgos, Martin de Victoria. 1578
Palau 1962; Sabin 113; Norman, the Norman library, 1991, part one
In octavo; limp vellum; 12 lvs; 448pp; 38 pp
The first 12 leaves include an engraved title page with the coats of arms of the Kings of Spain and Portugal and a full page portrait of the author: Christophorus Acosta Africanus. The text includes 43 full page engravings, and 3 text engravings of indigenous plants plus 2 full page images of elephants.
Provenance: Piergiorgio Borio MD, his bookplate
Condition: recased in contemporary stiff vellum. Title in manuscript on the spine. Damage to lower, right hand corner of the last c. 50 lvs with loss of some letters. Else fine.
An early and important illustrated herbarium of plants and medicinal herbs from Asia with designs, drawn from life. Continuing the work of the pioneer of Portuguese gardening in Asia, Garcia da Orta, Acosta further developed his understanding of medicinal plants, herbs and spices. Da Orta worked in Bombay and Goa for 30 years before he published in Goa his Coloquios dos simples e drogas..da India in 1563. That text was utilitarian (geared towards exportable plants) and did not take into account Indian knowledge of plants (Lach II, 433 and 434). The Garcia da Orta book was not illustrated. It was translated in Latin and summarized by Cluvius (Antwerp, 1567).
In Spain interest in spices and medical plants from the Americas followed a similar path with the early publication by the historian Gonzalo de Oviedo, ...de la natural hystoria de la Indias, in 1526 and Sivillian pharmacist Nicolas Monardes...de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales, 1571. Even more important was the book prepared in Spain by Cristoval de Acosta...a Portuguese physician with many years of personal experience in the East (Lach II, 436). Acosta wrote three tracts on medical plants in Asia. Two of his manuscripts have never been located. The third, printed at Burgos in 1578 rivaled Ortas book in authority and influence. His is not a simple translation of Orta. Of the 47 plants Acosta draws and describes Orta only has 14. Acostas work clearly surpasses the earlier work, with first hand observations and its illustrations after Acostas own, accurate drawings (Norman, 1991, 1). With an interesting essay on opium. The pages 417-448 have an essay on elephants including two full page images. It is the oldest known treatise on elephants known to exist.
Bibliography: Lach, Donald: Asia in the making of Europe, University of Chicago Press 1965