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A copy based on the Vienna Dioscorides - the earliest surviving illustrated herbal, held in the Austrian National Library, Vienna.


The earliest known herbals date back to early Greece and they have been in permanent use throughout the centuries into the medieval era and beyond. Herbals have predominately been used as texts to assist physicians and botanists in the use and application of remedial ointments and medicines and attempt to describe the medicinal properties of plants and their appearance.



Pedanius Dioscorides (circa 40CE-90CE)


Pedanius Dioscorides was born in Anazarbos (modern day Turkey) and lived in the time of the Emperor Nero in the 1st  Century CE. He was a military man and physician. Painstakingly compiling  information relating to 600 plants, 35 animal products and 90 minerals, he developed his medical treatise which was to become a cornerstone of European botany for two millennia.



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Materia Medica


One bound manuscript  volume of 418 hand-painted watercolour illustrations of Pedanius Dioscorides' Materia  Medica. This volume belonged to Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), President  of the Royal Society, and is now housed in the NHM Library. This item is a copy of the great Vienna Dioscorides – an elaborately illustrated herbal designed as a gift to the Byzantine Princess Juliana Anicia in  the 6th Century CE, and sometimes known as the Juliana Anicia Codex. The Juliana Anicia Codex was based on the original ancient Greek text.


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The Banks copy’s watermark dates the papers at 1458-1477. The drawings are arranged as in the Vienna Codex, in alphabetical order and are copies of the Vienna Dioscorides, which is vastly more ornate and luxuriously designed. Nevertheless, the Banks copy is an extremely important and rare volume of intrinsic value. The plant drawings are annotated with their Greek name at the top and in a later hand with their Latin name at the bottom of the page.


Bound at the back of the book are a number of sketches of animals and unfinished sketches of people. One unfinished sketch depicts the Princess Juliana Anicia.

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Another sketch denotes seven men – renowned medical men of the time, seated in the Hellenistic tradition of philosophers in discussion. The men depicted are (clockwise); Galen, Dioscorides, Nicander, Rufus, Andreas, Apollonius and Crateuas.


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There are a number of sketches of the mandrake root - being held up by a woman as a small grey figure. The mandrake plant had mystical significance for the ancient Greeks. Folklore describes how once dug up the mandrake root releases a terrible cry which will kill those who listen. However the mandrake also possesses mythical powers. One legend tells how a starved dog is tied to the partially dug up root and then when fully dug the shriek will kill the dog but spare the human, therefore leaving the human to capture the magical qualities of the plant.


These illustrations are a useful reminder of the transition from superstition and folklore to a more reasoned view of the world and are also symbolic of the development of a growing proto-scientific intelligence in relation to the natural world.


The library also holds other wonderful versions and editions of the Materia Medica.




Collins, M. (2000) Medieval herbals: The illustrative traditions, London: The British Library and University of Toronto Press.

Osbaldeston, T. A.  and Wood, R. P.A. (2000) Dioscorides, de materia medica : a new indexed version in modern English, Johannesberg: Ibidis Press.


By Natalie Bevan - Assistant Librarian


The Library catalogue is available online at

If you wish to view these or any other items, please contact the library to arrange an appointment or 020 7942 5460



Anthropology & Palaeontology

The origin of our species / Chris Stringer

London : Allen Lane (Penguin), 2011.

A 6 o STR


Building memories : the Neolithic Cotswold long barrow at Ascott-Under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire / edited by Don Benson and Alasdair Whittle ; with contributions by Alistair Barclay ... [et al.] ; and illustrations by Ian Dennis.

Oxford : Oxbow ; Oakville, CT : [Distributed by] D. Brown Book Co., c2007

A 3 q BUI


Dinosaur highway : a history of Dinosaur Valley State Park / Laurie E. Jasinski.

Fort Worth, Tex. : TCU Press, c2008

P 75C/43 o JAS




Gifts from the gardens of China : the introduction of traditional Chinese garden plants to Britain 1698-1862 / Jane Kilpatrick ; [commissioned and edited by Jane Crawley].

London : Frances Lincoln, 2007.

93(51) KIL Q


Guide alla flora - I, Grado (GO), Magredi di Vivaro (PN), Ampezzo-Sauris (UD), M. Coglians (UD) / Pier Luigi Nimis & Stefano Martellos.

Trieste : Goliardiche, 2005.



Atlas de la flore sauvage du département du Loiret / Damien Pujol, Jordane Cordier, et Jacques Moret

Mèze : Biotope ; Paris : Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, 2007.



British oaks : a concise guide / Michael Tyler ; with illustrations by Bob Farley.

Ramsbury : Crowood, 2008.



Phlox : a natural history and gardener's guide / James H. Locklear.

Portland : Timber Press, 2011.

582.4P110 LOC


Fruticose Roccellaceae : an anatomical-microscopical atlas and guide with a worldwide key and further notes on some crustose Roccellaceae or similar lichens / A. Aptroot & F. Schumm.

Soest, The Netherlands ; Wangen, Germany : The authors, 2011.



Nonnative invasive plants of Pacific Coast forests : a field guide for identification / Andrew N. Gray, Katie Barndt, and Sarah H. Reichard.

[Portland, OR] : U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, [2011]

581.9(79) GRA Q




Buoc'haned Breizh :  Les coccinelles de Bretagne / Cherel, Jean

Rennes : Groupe d'étude des invertébrés armoricains, 2010



Beetles in conservation / New, T. R.

Chichester : Wiley-Blackwell, 2010



Honeybee democracy / Seeley, Thomas D

Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2010



Gelechiidae II (Gelechiinae: Gnorimoschemini) / Huemer, Peter

Strenstrup : Apollo Books, 2010



Dagsommerfugle i Danmark [The butterflies of Denmark] / Hermansen, Klaus

Stenstrup : Apollo Books, 2010



The Hemiptera-Sternorrhyncha (Insecta) of Hong Kong, China :  an annotated inventory citing voucher specimens and published records / Martin, Jon H

Auckland : Magnolia Press ; 2011



General Natural History


The What on Earth? Wallbook : from the Big Bang to the present day / concept and text Christopher Lloyd ; illustrations Andy Forshaw ; design Will Webb

London : What on Earth Pub. , c2010

L 2 f WHA


Darwin's pictures : views of evolutionary theory, 1837-1874 / Julia Voss ; translated by Lori Lantz.

New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, c2010.

L 9E o VOS


Proceedings of the International Conference "Marine Biodiversity of East Asian Seas - Status, Challenges and Sustainable Development", Nha Trang, Vietnam, December 6-7, 2010

Nha Trang, Vietnam : APN, 2010.

L 73G q INT


Okavango Delta : floods of life / John Mendelsohn ... [et al.].

Windhoek, Namibia : Published by RAISON for IUCN and HOORC, 2010.

L 74G q OKA


Coleção síntese do conhecimento sobre a Margem Equatorial Amazônica [Electronic resource] / projeto Piatam Oceano.

Niterói : Universidade Federal Fluminense, 2008.

L 76D o PRO


Museum collections management : a handbook / Freda Matassa.

London : Facet Publishing, 2011.

L 81 o MAT


Eighteenth-century voyages & travels [sale catalogue] / Hordern House Rare Books.

Potts Point, N.S.W. : Hordern House Rare Books, 2011.

L 95E q HOR


11th International Coral Reef Symposium [electronic resource] : Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, July 7-11, 2008.

[Dania Beach, Fla.] : National Coral Reef Institute, c2008.




Soil atlas of the northern circumpolar region / I[nstitute for Environment and Sustainability ; A. V. Jones ... [et al.] , eds.]

Luxembourg : Publications Office of the European Union, 2010.

624.131.1(211-17) SOI (OUTSIZE)


Ornithology (Tring)

The African Naturalist : the life and times of Rodney Carrington Wood 1889-1962 / David Happold

Brighton, Sussex : Book Guild, 2011.

ORNITHOLOGY 96A WOO                    


Community ecology of tropical birds / E.A. Jayson and C. Sivaperuman.

New Delhi : New India Publishing Agency, 2010.

ORNITHOLOGY 73F JAY                    


Do hummingbirds hum? : fascinating answers to questions about hummingbirds / George C. West and Carol A. Butler.

New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c2010.

ORNITHOLOGY 18(5) WES                  


How fast can a falcon dive? : fascinating answers to questions about birds of prey / Peter Capainolo and Carol A. Butler.

New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c2010.

ORNITHOLOGY 18(1F) CAP                 


Oiseaux des forêts sèches de Nouvelle-Calédonie : guide d'identification : convention n° 24-2005, IAC-Programme Forêt sèche / Frédéric Desmoulins, Nicolas Barré,

Pouembout [Nouvelle-Calédonie] : Programme Forêt sèche ; Nouméa : Société calédonienne d'ornithologie, 2005

ORNITHOLOGY 77B DES                    


The simple science of flight : from insects to jumbo jets / Henk Tennekes.

Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c2009.

ORNITHOLOGY 11A TEN                    




Lobster / Richard J. King.

London : Reaktion Books, 2011.

Z 3A o KIN


Animal tool behavior : the use and manufacture of tools by animals ; Robert W. Shumaker, Kristina R. Walkup, and Benjamin B. Beck ; foreword by Gordon M. Burghardt..

Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.

Z 10 q SHU


Crustacea, Platyhelminthes, Nematoda, Nemertea, Annelida, Rotifera and Tardigrada of the Seychelles islands / edited by Justin Gerlach.

Manchester : Siri Scientific Press, 2011.

Z 79 o CRU


The great sperm whale : a natural history of the ocean's most magnificent and mysterious creature / Richard Ellis.

Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, 2011.



Kraken : the curious, exciting, and slightly disturbing science of squid / by Wendy Williams.

New York : Abrams Image, 2011.



The freshwater mussels of Ohio / G. Thomas Watters, Michael A. Hoggarth, [and] David H. Stansbery.

Columbus : Ohio State University Press, 2009.



New Zealand seashells visual guide / Jenny Raven, Selwyn Bracegirdle.

Wellington, N.Z. : Creatus Design, 2010.