Giovanni Baptista Ferrari

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Giovanni Baptista (also Battista) Ferrari (1584 Siena - 1 February 1655 Siena), was an Italian Jesuit and professor in Rome, a botanist, and an author of illustrated botanical books and a Latin-Syrian dictionary.

He was born to an affluent Sienese family and entered the Jesuit Order in Rome in 1602. His career, besides the authoring of two important works, included being professor of Hebrew and Rhetoric at the Jesuit College in Rome and horticultural advisor to the Pope.

Giovanni Ferrari Baptista was linguistically highly gifted and an able scientist, who, at 21 years of age, knew a good deal of Hebrew and spoke and wrote excellent Greek and Latin. He was editor of a Latin-Syrian dictionary (Nomenclator syriacus, 1622).

Ferrari devoted himself till 1632 to the study and cultivation of ornamental plants, and published De Florum Cultura, which was illustrated with copperplates by, amongst others, Anna Maria Variana, possibly the first female copper-engraver. The first book deals with the design and maintenance of the garden and garden equipment. The second book provides descriptions of the different flowers, while the third book deals with the culture of these flowers. The fourth book, continues with a treatise on the use and beauty of the flower species, including their different varieties and mutations.

The plants featured in Ferrari's research came from Cardinal Francesco Barberini's private botanical garden, the Horti Barberini, a garden which was under the care of Ferrari. The first edition of his de florum publication was dedicated to Barberini and the second was dedicated to Barberini's sister-in-law, Anna Colonna.[1]

Another work is the Hesperides sive de Malorum Aureorum Cultura et Usu Libri Quatuor, first published in 1646. Ferrari's close relationship with Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657), a noted scholar and student of citrus, led to the creation of this work. The first volume of this work is devoted to citrus and its many varieties and variations.

The plates were produced by the best artists of the time, such as Johann Friedrich Greuter, Cornelis Bloemaert and Nicolas Joseph Foucault. Plates were also prepared by the renowned painters and draughtsmen of Roman Baroque, such as Pietro da Cortona, Andrea Sacchi, Nicolas Poussin, Pietro Paolo Ubaldini, F. Perier, Francesco Albani, Philippe Gagliard, F. Ramanelli, Guido Reni, Dominic Zampieri and H. Rinaldi. The plates show life-sized whole fruit, including sections. Other plates show Hercules, mythological scenes, garden buildings, Orangeries, garden tools, etc..

Both works are important as they display accurate representations.

Ferrari was the first scientist to provide a complete description of the limes, lemons and pomegranates. He also described medical preparations, the details on citron and prescribed limes, lemons and pomegranates as medicinal plants against scurvy.


  1. ^ Fountains, statues, and flowers: studies in Italian gardens of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Elisabeth B. MacDougall (Dumbarton Oaks, 1994)