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Over two hundred of the botanical drawings catalogued in these two volumes are found in the Erbario Miniato, an early seventeenth-century herbal that formed part of the Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657) and is now in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. Also catalogued are more than sixty drawings that originally formed a companion volume to the Erbario Miniato, which was broken up in the eighteenth century and dispersed early in the twentieth century. These illustrations were probably commissioned by Federico Cesi, Prince of Acquasparta (1585-1630), founder of Europe's first scientific academy, the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, and were acquired after Cesi's death by Cassiano dal Pozzo. At the end of the catalogue are a number of drawings apparently commissioned by Cassiano or his brother, Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo, in later years.
Most of the drawings represent the native flora of central Italy, accompanied by notes on the traditional medicinal properties of these plants, largely taken from Pietro Andrea Mattioli's 1568 edition of Dioscorides' Materia medica. Also found within the pages of the Erbario are mycological specimens, rarities from across Europe, and most significantly, recently imported species such as the crown imperial, the tobacco plant, the tomato and the aubergine. Together the drawings provide a fascinating insight into the study of botany at the dawn of the modern era, as traditional beliefs about the nature of plants were being subjected to a new scientific scrutiny. Each drawing is reproduced in colour, and their botanical, medicinal and historical aspects discussed in the accompanying text. An introductory essay places the drawings in their art-historical and botanico-historical contexts, with comparative illustrations of earlier and contemporary plant illustrations.