Pharmacy and herbal lore were parts of the classical Dioscorides’ Greek common heritage and of the traditional african medicine
Pedanius Dioscorides, probably lived between 40 CE and 90 CE, is a Cilician greek, born in Anazarbos (now Nazarna, near Tarsus) within the Roman Empire of the day, and today in Turkey. He wrote Περι υλης ιατρικης, in Latin De Materia Medica. For almost two millena Dioscorides was regarded as the ultimate authority on plants and medicine, and would be considered as the absolute supremacy over all other botanists, not only of antiquity but of all time. The plant descriptions were often adequate for identification, including methods of preparation, medicinal uses, and dosages. The oldest survival, a fragment, the Michigan Papyrus, suggests that the earliest copies of Dioscorides’s manuscript were not illustrated. The finest surviving comprehensive manuscript copies, magnificently illustrated, were the Vienna Codex and the Naples Codex ; the Vienna was made in the sixth century in Constantinople (about 512 CE) and is known as Codex Vindobonensis, conserved in Osterreichische National Bibliotek, in Vienna or Codex Aniciae Julianae, or again Codex Constantinopolitanus and the second is the seventh-century Codex Neapolitanus.
In 1655 John Goodyer made an English translation, and in 1933 Robet T Gunther edited and first printed the popular version of Goodyer’s Dioscorides. TA Osbaldeston and RPA Wood published in 2000 a new indexed version in modern English.
In the 18th century, the work planed by Jacquin and Kollàr on Dioscorides’ s medicinal plants was to be abundantly illustrated. For this purpose, Jacquin has many of the illustrations in the Codex Aniciae and the Codex Neapolitanus traced, the resulting line-drawings transferred to copper plates, the copper plates engraved, and several sets of proofs made. One set was sent to Linneaus, and is now in the Library of the Linnaean Society of London. Then for unknown reasons the project came to standstill. Together with Jacquin’s project, there are the most impressive evidence of a plan that was realized only in the 21th century – with this new edition that offers the first printed facsimile of the two early Byzantine codices.