The Debrecen Book of Plants and Animals, a fifteenth-century manuscript in the Library of the Reformed Theological University in Debrecen (Hungary), is the only illustrated German tranlsation of the most broadly disseminated corpus of herbal medicine from the Latin Middle Ages. The facsimile (with pen-and-ink drawings of exceptional quality) has a facing-page edition and translation, and is preceded by essays on the Latin source transmission, the translation, and the medical and pharmacological implications of the illnesses and their treatment in the context of medieval medicine.
The Debrecen Book of Plants and Animals is an illustrated manuscript on parchment from the second quarter of the fifteenth century in the Library of the Reformed Theological University in Debrecen (Hungary). Largely ignored by earlier scholarship, it is the only illustrated German tranlsation of the most broadly disseminated corpus of herbal medicine from the Latin Middle Ages. The compendium, a collection of prescriptions for the treatment of various illnesses, contains four late classical texts: the first two, Ps.-Musa’s De herba vettonica and the herbal of Ps.-Apuleius, treat plant-based medicines, while the following two, the Liber de taxone and Sextus Placidus’s Liber medicinae ex animalibus, discuss medicines derived from animal material. In contrast to the schematic illustrations of the Latin transmission, the Debrecen manuscript contains colored pen-and-ink drawings of extraordinary quality. The illustrator’s attempt to concentrate on the distinctive characteristics of individual plants and to represent them as lifelike as possible resulted in a hitherto unequaled precision in German-speaking regions. The central part of the book presents a facsimile of the manuscript, with the facing page containing a transcription and an English translation, so that facsimile, text, and translation can easily be compared. The edition and translation are accompanied by a commentary explaining problems of the Latin sources and the German translation, and are further enhanced by a glossary of the Bavarian vocabulary and an index of plant names. This edition is preceded by an extensive group of studies, which establish a new basis for the transmission and reception history of the Latin base text, attempt to trace the sphere of the source manuscript, and discuss the translation strategies of the German adapter. Marian Polhill (Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, University of Puerto Rico) undertakes a contextualization of the ‚book of animals‘ within the hitherto little studied transmission of animal-based medicines in Arabic and Western cultures. Irmgard Müller (Professor of History of Medicine, Ruhr University Bochum) presents a medical-pharmacological study of the texts and examines the illnesses and their treatment in the context of medieval medicine. This multi-disciplinary collaboration combines literary, philological, medical-historical, pharmaceutical and art-historical research.
Arthur Groos (born 1943) studied German and Medieval Studies at Princeton University, the Free University of Berlin, and Cornell University, taught first at UCLA and then at Cornell, where he is Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities. In 1978-79 he was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Senior Fellow at the University of Munich, and in 2001-02 held a Humboldt Research Prize at the Free University of Berlin. His principal research interests are medieval literature and musicology (opera). Medieval publications include Medieval Christian Literary Imagery (1988), Romancing the Grail: Genre, Science, and Quest in Wolfram’s Parzival (1995) and several edited volumes. He is also co-editor of Transatlantic Studies on Medieval and Early Modern Literature and Culture.
Bernhard Schnell (born 1942) studied German and History at the University of Munich, receiving a Ph.D. in 1981 with an edition and study of Thomas Peuntner’s Büchlein von der Liebhabung Gottes (published as vol. 81 of the „Münchener Texte und Untersuchungen“ ). Professional career: 1974-1990, Research Associate in the Wurzburg research group ‚Prose of the German Middle Ages‘, then in the Sonderforschungsbereich 226 (‚Wissensorganisierende und wissensvermittelnde Literatur im Mittelalter‘); 1990 Habilitation in the History of Medicine with textual and transmission studies on the pharmaceutical literature of the German Middle Ages; 1990-94 Akademischer Oberrat at the Institute for History of Medicine at the University of Würzburg; 1995-2007 project leader of the Middle High German Dictionary at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Research areas: Middle High German lexicography, text and transmission history, German medical literature of the Middle Ages Selected publications: co-ed., Vocabularius Ex quo, 5 vols., Texte und Textgeschichte 22-26 (Tübingen, 1988); Der deutsche ‚Macer‘, critical ed. in collaboration with William Crossgrove, Texte und Textgeschichte 50 (Tübingen, 2003); co-ed., Johannes Hartlieb, ,Kräuterbuch,‘ Wissensliteratur im Mittelalter 47 (Wiesbaden, 2010).